6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person

2016, motherfuckers. Yeah! LET’S DO THIS.

“Do what?” you ask. I DON’T KNOW. LET’S FIGURE THAT OUT TOGETHER, MOTHERFUCKERS.

Feel free to stop reading this if your career is going great, you’re thrilled with your life, and you’re happy with your relationships. Enjoy the rest of your day, friend, this article is not for you. You’re doing a great job, we’re all proud of you. So you don’t feel like you wasted your click, here’s a picture of Lenny Kravitz wearing a gigantic scarf.

Via Upscalehype.com

For the rest of you, I want you to try something: Name five impressive things about yourself. Write them down or just shout them out loud to the room. But here’s the catch — you’re not allowed to list anything you are (i.e., I’m a nice guy, I’m honest), but instead can only list things that you do (i.e., I just won a national chess tournament, I make the best chili in Massachusetts). If you found that difficult, well, this is for you, and you are going to fucking hate hearing it. My only defense is that this is what I wish somebody had said to me around 1995 or so.

Note: I originally posted this in December of 2012, and to date it has drawn more than 20 million page views and been shared on Facebook more than half a million times. We decided to update it and post it again every year, and by update I mean we change the year in the intro. -DW

6

The World Only Cares About What It Can Get from You

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Let’s say that the person you love the most has just been shot. He or she is lying in the street, bleeding and screaming. A guy rushes up and says, “Step aside.” He looks over your loved one’s bullet wound and pulls out a pocket knife — he’s going to operate right there in the street.

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“OK, which one is the injured one?”

You ask, “Are you a doctor?”

The guy says, “No.”

You say, “But you know what you’re doing, right? You’re an old Army medic, or …”

At this point the guy becomes annoyed. He tells you that he is a nice guy, he is honest, he is always on time. He tells you that he is a great son to his mother and has a rich life full of fulfilling hobbies, and he boasts that he never uses foul language.

Confused, you say, “How does any of that fucking matter when my [wife/husband/best friend/parent] is lying here bleeding! I need somebody who knows how to operate on bullet wounds! Can you do that or not?!?”

Now the man becomes agitated — why are you being shallow and selfish? Do you not care about any of his other good qualities? Didn’t you just hear him say that he always remembers his girlfriend’s birthday? In light of all of the good things he does, does it really matter if he knows how to perform surgery?

In that panicked moment, you will take your bloody hands and shake him by the shoulders, screaming, “Yes, I’m saying that none of that other shit matters, because in this specific situation, I just need somebody who can stop the bleeding, you crazy fucking asshole.”

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“I don’t get it. Would it help if I put on a lab jacket? Here, one sec, let me just …”

So here is my terrible truth about the adult world: You are in that very situation every single day. Only you are the confused guy with the pocket knife. All of society is the bleeding gunshot victim.

If you want to know why society seems to shun you, or why you seem to get no respect, it’s because society is full of people who need things. They need houses built, they need food to eat, they need entertainment, they need fulfilling sexual relationships. You arrived at the scene of that emergency, holding your pocket knife, by virtue of your birth — the moment you came into the world, you became part of a system designed purely to see to people’s needs.

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“Here’s that shit you needed. Now fuck off.”

Either you will go about the task of seeing to those needs by learning a unique set of skills, or the world will reject you, no matter how kind, giving, and polite you are. You will be poor, you will be alone, you will be left out in the cold.

Does that seem mean, or crass, or materialistic? What about love and kindness — don’t those things matter? Of course. As long as they result in you doing things for people that they can’t get elsewhere. For you see …

5

The Hippies Were Wrong

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Here is the greatest scene in the history of movies (WARNING: EXTREME NSFW LANGUAGE):

For those of you who can’t watch videos, it’s the famous speech Alec Baldwin gives in the cinematic masterpiece Glengarry Glenn Ross. Baldwin’s character — whom you assume is the villain — addresses a room full of dudes and tears them a new asshole, telling them that they’re all about to be fired unless they “close” the sales they’ve been assigned:

“Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you! Go home and play with your kids. If you want to work here, close.”

It’s brutal, rude, and borderline sociopathic, and also it is an honest and accurate expression of what the world is going to expect from you. The difference is that, in the real world, people consider it so wrong to talk to you that way that they’ve decided it’s better to simply let you keep failing.

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“First graders, welcome to Mr. Baldwin’s third period art class — is everyone here? Well, I’m goin’ anyway.”

That scene changed my life. I’d program my alarm clock to play it for me every morning if I knew how. Alec Baldwin was nominated for an Oscar for that movie and that’s the only scene he’s in. As smarter people have pointed out, the genius of that speech is that half of the people who watch it think that the point of the scene is “Wow, what must it be like to have such an asshole boss?” and the other half think, “Fuck yes, let’s go out and sell some goddamned real estate!”

Or, as the Last Psychiatrist blog put it:

“If you were in that room, some of you would understand this as a work, but feed off the energy of the message anyway, welcome the coach’s cursing at you, ‘this guy is awesome!’; while some of you would take it personally, this guy is a jerk, you have no right to talk to me like that, or — the standard maneuver when narcissism is confronted with a greater power — quietly seethe and fantasize about finding information that will out him as a hypocrite. So satisfying.”

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I swear, if he mentions my hair, I’ll slap his face so har– Yes, sir, I’m listening. I’m sorry.”

That excerpt is from an insightful critique of “hipsters” and why they seem to have so much trouble getting jobs (that doesn’t begin to do it justice, go read the whole thing), and the point is that the difference in those two attitudes — bitter vs. motivated — largely determines whether or not you’ll succeed in the world. For instance, some people want to respond to that speech with Tyler Durden’s line from Fight Club: “You are not your job.”

But, well, actually, you totally are. Granted, your “job” and your means of employment might not be the same thing, but in both cases you are nothing more than the sum total of your useful skills. For instance, being a good mother is a job that requires a skill. It’s something a person can do that is useful to other members of society. But make no mistake: Your “job” — the useful thing you do for other people — is all you are.

There is a reason why surgeons get more respect than comedy writers. There is a reason mechanics get more respect than unemployed hipsters. There is a reason your job will become your label if your death makes the news (“NFL Linebacker Dies in Murder/Suicide”). Tyler said, “You are not your job,” but he also founded and ran a successful soap company and became the head of an international social and political movement. He was totally his job.

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It was the irony that many people missed from that movie.

Or think of it this way: Remember when Chick-fil-A came out against gay marriage? And how despite the protests, the company continues to sell millions of sandwiches every day? It’s not because the country agrees with them; it’s because they do their job of making delicious sandwiches well. And that’s all that matters.

You don’t have to like it. I don’t like it when it rains on my birthday. It rains anyway. Clouds form and precipitation happens. People have needs and thus assign value to the people who meet them. These are simple mechanisms of the universe and they do not respond to our wishes.

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“This is bullshit. I have a completely clean criminal record, and this is the thanks I get?”

If you protest that you’re not a shallow capitalist materialist and that you disagree that money is everything, I can only say: Who said anything about money? You’re missing the larger point.

4

What You Produce Does Not Have to Make Money, But It Does Have to Benefit People

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Let’s try a non-money example so you don’t get hung up on that. The demographic that Cracked writes for is heavy on 20-something males. So on our message boards and in my many inboxes I read several dozen stories a year from miserable, lonely guys who insist that women won’t come near them despite the fact that they are just the nicest guys in the world. I can explain what is wrong with this mindset, but it would probably be better if I let Alec Baldwin explain it:

In this case, Baldwin is playing the part of the attractive women in your life. They won’t put it as bluntly as he does — society has trained us not to be this honest with people — but the equation is the same. “Nice guy? Who gives a shit? If you want to work here, close.”

So, what do you bring to the table? Because the Zooey Deschanel lookalike in the bookstore that you’ve been daydreaming about moisturizes her face for an hour every night and feels guilty when she eats anything other than salad for lunch. She’s going to be a surgeon in 10 years. What do you do?

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“Well, I’m fucking wicked at capture the flag.”

“What, so you’re saying that I can’t get girls like that unless I have a nice job and make lots of money?”

No, your brain jumps to that conclusion so you have an excuse to write off everyone who rejects you by thinking that they’re just being shallow and selfish. I’m asking what do you offer? Are you smart? Funny? Interesting? Talented? Ambitious? Creative? OK, now what do you do to demonstrate those attributes to the world? Don’t say that you’re a nice guy — that’s the bare minimum. Pretty girls have guys being nice to them 36 times a day. The patient is bleeding in the street. Do you know how to operate or not?

“Well, I’m not sexist or racist or greedy or shallow or abusive! Not like those other douchebags!”

I’m sorry, I know that this is hard to hear, but if all you can do is list a bunch of faults you don’t have, then back the fuck away from the patient. There’s a witty, handsome guy with a promising career ready to step in and operate.

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“Wait, I said I wouldn’t hit you!”

Does that break your heart? OK, so now what? Are you going to mope about it, or are you going to learn how to do surgery? It’s up to you, but don’t complain about how girls fall for jerks; they fall for those jerks because those jerks have other things they can offer. “But I’m a great listener!” Are you? Because you’re willing to sit quietly in exchange for the chance to be in the proximity of a pretty girl (and spend every second imagining how soft her skin must be)? Well guess what, there’s another guy in her life who also knows how to do that, and he can play the guitar. Saying that you’re a nice guy is like a restaurant whose only selling point is that the food doesn’t make you sick. You’re like a new movie whose title is This Movie Is in English, and its tagline is “The actors are clearly visible.”

I think this is why you can be a “nice guy” and still feel terrible about yourself. Specifically …

3 You Hate Yourself Because You Don’t Do Anything

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“So, what, you’re saying that I should pick up a book on how to get girls?”

Only if step one in the book is “Start making yourself into the type of person girls want to be around.”

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“Come ooooon. I know I hid some vodka in here somewhere.”

Because that’s the step that gets skipped — it’s always “How can I get a job?” and not “How can I become the type of person employers want?” It’s “How can I get pretty girls to like me?” instead of “How can I become the type of person that pretty girls like?” See, because that second one could very well require giving up many of your favorite hobbies and paying more attention to your appearance, and God knows what else. You might even have to change your personality.

“But why can’t I find someone who just likes me for me?” you ask. The answer is because humans need things. The victim is bleeding, and all you can do is look down and complain that there aren’t more gunshot wounds that just fix themselves?

Here’s another video (NSFW):

Everyone who watched that video instantly became a little happier, although not all for the same reasons. Can you do that for people? Why not? What’s stopping you from strapping on your proverbial thong and cape and taking to your proverbial stage and flapping your proverbial penis at people? That guy knows the secret to winning at human life: that doing … whatever you call that … was better than not doing it.

“But I’m not good at anything!” Well, I have good news — throw enough hours of repetition at it and you can get sort of good at anything. I was the world’s shittiest writer when I was an infant. I was only slightly better at 25. But while I was failing miserably at my career, I wrote in my spare time for eight straight years, an article a week, before I ever made real money off it. It took 13 years for me to get good enough to make the New York Times best-seller list. It took me probably 20,000 hours of practice to sand the edges off my sucking.

Don’t like the prospect of pouring all of that time into a skill? Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the sheer act of practicing will help you come out of your shell — I got through years of tedious office work because I knew that I was learning a unique skill on the side. People quit because it takes too long to see results, because they can’t figure out that the process is the result.

The bad news is that you have no other choice. If you want to work here, close.

Because in my non-expert opinion, you don’t hate yourself because you have low self-esteem, or because other people were mean to you. You hate yourself because you don’t do anything. Not even you can just “love you for you” — that’s why you’re miserable and sending me private messages asking me what I think you should do with your life.

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Step One: Get up.

Do the math: How much of your time is spent consuming things other people made (TV, music, video games, websites) versus making your own? Only one of those adds to your value as a human being.

And if you hate hearing this and are responding with something you heard as a kid that sounds like “It’s what’s on the inside that matters!” then I can only say …

2

What You Are Inside Only Matters Because of What It Makes You Do

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Being in the business I’m in, I know dozens of aspiring writers. They think of themselves as writers, they introduce themselves as writers at parties, they know that deep inside, they have the heart of a writer. The only thing they’re missing is that minor final step, where they actually fucking write things.

But really, does that matter? Is “writing things” all that important when deciding who is and who is not truly a “writer”?

For the love of God, yes.

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I’ve known “writers” who produced less content than what’s on this woman’s grocery list.

See, there’s a common defense to everything I’ve said so far, and to every critical voice in your life. It’s the thing your ego is saying to you in order to prevent you from having to do the hard work of improving: “I know I’m a good person on the inside.” It may also be phrased as “I know who I am” or “I just have to be me.”

Don’t get me wrong; who you are inside is everything — the guy who built a house for his family from scratch did it because of who he was inside. Every bad thing you’ve ever done has started with a bad impulse, some thought ricocheting around inside your skull until you had to act on it. And every good thing you’ve done is the same — “who you are inside” is the metaphorical dirt from which your fruit grows.

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Notice how the camera is pointed up, and not at the base of the tree?

But here’s what everyone needs to know, and what many of you can’t accept:

“You” are nothing but the fruit.

Nobody cares about your dirt. “Who you are inside” is meaningless aside from what it produces for other people.

Inside, you have great compassion for poor people. Great. Does that result in you doing anything about it? Do you hear about some terrible tragedy in your community and say, “Oh, those poor children. Let them know that they are in my thoughts”? Because fuck you if so — find out what they need and help provide it. A hundred million people watched that Kony video, virtually all of whom kept those poor African children “in their thoughts.” What did the collective power of those good thoughts provide? Jack fucking shit. Children die every day because millions of us tell ourselves that caring is just as good as doing. It’s an internal mechanism controlled by the lazy part of your brain to keep you from actually doing work.

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“I just wanted to tell you that you’re in my thoughts. Good luck — let me know if that cured you.”

How many of you are walking around right now saying, “She/he would love me if she/he only knew what an interesting person I am!” Really? How do all of your interesting thoughts and ideas manifest themselves in the world? What do they cause you to do? If your dream girl or guy had a hidden camera that followed you around for a month, would they be impressed with what they saw? Remember, they can’t read your mind — they can only observe. Would they want to be a part of that life?

Because all I’m asking you to do is apply the same standard to yourself that you apply to everyone else. Don’t you have that annoying Christian friend whose only offer to help anyone ever is to “pray for them”? Doesn’t it drive you nuts? I’m not even commenting on whether or not prayer works; it doesn’t change the fact that they chose the one type of help that doesn’t require them to get off the sofa. They abstain from every vice, they think clean thoughts, their internal dirt is as pure as can be, but what fruit grows from it? And they should know this better than anybody — I stole the fruit metaphor from the Bible. Jesus said something to the effect of “a tree is judged by its fruit” over and over and over. Granted, Jesus never said, “If you want to work here, close.” No, he said, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

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“And then a buffalo will stare stupidly into your soul while slowly chewing grass and softly farting.”

The people didn’t react well to being told that, just as the salesmen didn’t react well to Alec Baldwin telling them that they needed to grow some balls or resign themselves to shining his shoes. Which brings us to the final point …

1

Everything Inside You Will Fight Improvement

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The human mind is a miracle, and you will never see it spring more beautifully into action than when it is fighting against evidence that it needs to change. Your psyche is equipped with layer after layer of defense mechanisms designed to shoot down anything that might keep things from staying exactly where they are — ask any addict.

So even now, some of you reading this are feeling your brain bombard you with knee-jerk reasons to reject it. From experience, I can say that these seem to come in the form of …

*Intentionally Interpreting Any Criticism as an Insult

“Who is he to call me lazy and worthless! A good person would never talk to me like this! He wrote this whole thing just to feel superior to me and to make me feel bad about my life! I’m going to think up my own insult to even the score!”

*Focusing on the Messenger to Avoid Hearing the Message

“Who is THIS guy to tell ME how to live? Oh, like he’s so high and mighty! It’s just some dumb writer on the Internet! I’m going to go dig up something on him that reassures me that he’s stupid, and that everything he’s saying is stupid! This guy is so pretentious, it makes me puke! I watched his old rap video on YouTube and thought his rhymes sucked!

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“When you get to where I am in life, you feel free to give me advice! Until then, you’re nothing but meat and guesses.”

*Focusing on the Tone to Avoid Hearing the Content

“I’m going to dig through here until I find a joke that is offensive when taken out of context, and then talk and think only about that! I’ve heard that a single offensive word can render an entire book invisible!”

*Revising Your Own History

“Things aren’t so bad! I know that I was threatening suicide last month, but I’m feeling better now! It’s entirely possible that if I just keep doing exactly what I’m doing, eventually things will work out! I’ll get my big break, and if I keep doing favors for that pretty girl, eventually she’ll come around!”

*Pretending That Any Self-Improvement Would Somehow Be Selling Out Your True Self

“Oh, so I guess I’m supposed to get rid of all of my manga and instead go to the gym for six hours a day and get a spray tan like those Jersey Shore douchebags? Because THAT IS THE ONLY OTHER OPTION.”

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“Way to leave ‘the hood’ behind, asshole. New house or not, you’ll always be white trash!”

And so on. Remember, misery is comfortable. It’s why so many people prefer it. Happiness takes effort.

Also, courage. It’s incredibly comforting to know that as long as you don’t create anything in your life, then nobody can attack the thing you created.

It’s so much easier to just sit back and criticize other people’s creations. This movie is stupid. That couple’s kids are brats. That other couple’s relationship is a mess. That rich guy is shallow. This restaurant sucks. This Internet writer is an asshole. I’d better leave a mean comment demanding that the website fire him. See, I created something.

Oh, wait, did I forget to mention that part? Yeah, whatever you try to build or create — be it a poem, or a new skill, or a new relationship — you will find yourself immediately surrounded by non-creators who trash it. Maybe not to your face, but they’ll do it. Your drunk friends do not want you to get sober. Your fat friends do not want you to start a fitness regimen. Your jobless friends do not want to see you embark on a career.

Just remember, they’re only expressing their own fear, since trashing other people’s work is another excuse to do nothing. “Why should I create anything when the things other people create suck? I would totally have written a novel by now, but I’m going to wait for something good, I don’t want to write the next Twilight!” As long as they never produce anything, their work will forever be perfect and beyond reproach. Or if they do produce something, they’ll make sure they do it with detached irony. They’ll make it intentionally bad to make it clear to everyone else that this isn’t their real effort. Their real effort would have been amazing. Not like the shit you made.

Read our article comments — when they get nasty, it’s always from the same angle: Cracked needs to fire this columnist. This asshole needs to stop writing. Don’t make any more videos. It always boils down to “Stop creating. This is different from what I would have made, and the attention you’re getting is making me feel bad about myself.”

Don’t be that person. If you are that person, don’t be that person any more. This is what’s making people hate you. This is what’s making you hate yourself.

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What are you going to do with it? Hunt witches or kick off the Olympics?

So how about this: one year. The end of 2016, that’s our deadline. Or a year from whenever you read this. While other people are telling you “Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to lose 15 pounds this year!” I’m going to say let’s pledge to do fucking anything — add any skill, any improvement to your human tool set, and get good enough at it to impress people. Don’t ask me what — hell, pick something at random if you don’t know. Take a class in karate, or ballroom dancing, or pottery. Learn to bake. Build a birdhouse. Learn massage. Learn a programming language. Film a porno. Adopt a superhero persona and fight crime. Start a YouTube vlog. Write for Cracked.

But the key is, I don’t want you to focus on something great that you’re going to make happen to you (“I’m going to find a girlfriend, I’m going to make lots of money …”). I want you to purely focus on giving yourself a skill that would make you ever so slightly more interesting and valuable to other people.

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“Holy shit, by learning Spanish, I just gained the ability to speak to 400 million people I previously couldn’t.”

“I don’t have the money to take a cooking class.” Then fucking Google “how to cook.” They’ve even filtered out the porn now, it’s easier than ever. Damn it, you have to kill those excuses. Or they will kill you.

If you want to make note of your project in the forum thread or the comments and check in this time next year, knock yourself out. I’ll be curious to see if even one person actually does this, but if so we’ll look back, not just on whether or not we actually followed through, but why. You have nothing to lose, and the world needs you. Here’s a video of a corgi rolling down some stairs.


David Wong is the Executive Editor of Cracked.com and a New York Times best-selling author. You probably don’t know that his long-awaited new novel is out right now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM!, IndieBound, iTunes, Powell’s, your local bookstore, or anywhere else books are sold!

For more life lessons you should learn right now, check out How ‘The Karate Kid’ Ruined The Modern World and 5 Reasons Life Actually Does Get Better.

You Cannot Eat Money

When the Last Tree Is Cut Down, the Last Fish Eaten, and the Last Stream Poisoned, You Will Realize That You Cannot Eat Money

Alanis Obomsawin? Prophecy of the Cree Indians? Osage saying? Sakokwenonkwas?  Greenpeace? Anonymous? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: I recently came across the following stirring proverb on the internet:

When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.

After performing multiple searches for the phrase I finally found it listed in The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs (2009) which simply stated that it was a “Native American saying”. The earliest example given in the reference was dated 1983 and appeared in the book “America Born and Reborn” by H. Wasserman, who labeled it an “Osage saying”. I was hoping that these provocative words of wisdom were older. Could you try to trace this saying further back in time?

Quote Investigator: The earliest instance located by QI was in a collection of essays published in 1972 titled “Who is the Chairman of This Meeting?” A chapter called “Conversations with North American Indians” contained comments made by Alanis Obomsawin who was described as “an Abenaki from the Odanak reserve, seventy odd miles northeast of Montreal.” (The book uses the spelling Obomosawin.) Obomsawin employed a version of the saying while speaking with the chapter author Ted Poole. [AOTP]:

Canada, the most affluent of countries, operates on a depletion economy which leaves destruction in its wake. Your people are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.

In later years Obomsawin became famous as an award-winning documentary filmmaker based in Canada.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1894 the importance of conserving natural resources was recognized and expressed in a report by the State Fish and Game Commissioner of North Dakota. The report cautioned that short-term thinking and narrow monetary motivations might lead to the destruction of the “last tree” and the “last fish”. The following passage shows thematic similarities to the quotation under investigation [LFND]:

Present needs and present gains was the rule of action—which seems to be a sort of transmitted quality which we in our now enlightened time have not wholly outgrown, for even now a few men can be found who seem willing to destroy the last tree, the last fish and the last game bird and animal, and leave nothing for posterity, if thereby some money can be made.

In 1972 the remarks of Alanis Obomsawin were published in the volume “Who is the Chairman of This Meeting?” The details were listed previously in this article [AOTP].

In November 1972 a version of the saying was used by another Native American who presented a talk at Harvard University as reported in the student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson [PSHC]:

Thomas Parker, whose Indian name is Sakokwenonkwas, was the main speaker of the program. He said that he and the other Mohawks were from the Akwesasne reservation on the New York-Canada border. …

“Someday President Nixon and the other world leaders are going to find out that once they catch the last fish, once they cut down the last tree, they won’t be able to eat all the money they have in the banks,” he added. [Footnote A]

It is not clear to QI whether the expression was crafted by Obomsawin, Sakokwenonkwas, or a third person. The lead time for publication of a book can be long, so Obomsawin probably used the words before Sakokwenonkwas spoke at Harvard.

In 1981 two Greenpeace members climbed a smelter smokestack that was more than 500-feet tall according to an Associated Press report. Their goal was “to protest emissions of arsenic and sulfur dioxide,” and they unfurled an enormous 80-by-20-foot sign. The expression displayed on the smokestack was not ascribed to anyone in particular [GPLF]:

As one of the longest banners we’ve ever made summed things up, “When the last tree is cut, the last river poisoned, and the last fish dead, we will discover that we can’t eat money…”

In 1983 an advertisement for the Greenpeace organization that was printed in the Sydney Morning Herald employed a version of the saying. The words were used without attribution in a section titled “Why do we bother?” [GPSH]:

Greenpeace believes that after the last tree is cut, the last river poisoned and the last fish dead, you will find you can’t eat your money. In that interest, we strive to bring public and legal pressure against those who pollute the environment, deplete our resources and threaten rare species for private profit.

As noted by the questioner a version of the expression appeared in the valuable reference work “The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs” which provided citations beginning in 1983 [OXLF] [OXDP].

In 1995 a letter written to the New York Times employed the saying and attributed it to the “Cree Indians” [NYCI]:

To the Editor:

“A Modest Step to Save the Fish” (editorial, Aug. 8) brings to mind a prophecy of the Cree Indians: “When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money.”

In conclusion, QI would tentatively credit by Alanis Obomsawin with the saying. Also, the characterization “Native American saying” seems accurate in the sense that the two earliest known users of the statement were Native Americans. Yet, the phrase seems to have been crafted in relatively modern times, and thus does not have the deep historical resonance provided by age. Perhaps someone could ask Obomsawin about the expression.

(Many thanks to Kyle whose query inspired the formulation of this question and motivated this exploration. Kyle located the proverb listing within the “The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs”.)

[GPLF] Greenpeace, Banner message: “When the last tree is cut”, Mentioned on “About” webpage in English. (Accessed greenpeace.org 2011 October 19) link

[AOTP] 1972, Who is the Chairman of This Meeting?: A Collection of Essays edited by Ralph Osborne, “Conversations with North American Indians” by Ted Poole, Start Page 39, Quote Page 43, Neewin Publishing Company, Toronto. (Verified on paper)

[LFND] 1894, Public Documents of the State of North Dakota: Fiscal Period Ending June 30, 1894: Volume 2, Public Document Number 18: Section: “Biennial Report of the State Fish and Game Commissioner to the Governor of North Dakota from March 17, 1893 to December 1, 1894”, Quote Page 343, North Dakota State Printers and Binders, Jamestown, North Dakota. (Google Books full view) link

[PSHC] 1972 November 17, The Harvard Crimson, [Harvard University student newspaper], “Indians Say Heritage Ignored, Criticize White Man’s Attitude”, Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Accessed thecrimson.com on 2011 October 19) link

[Footnote A] The word “out” appears on the Harvard Crimson website instead of the word “cut” in the quoted passage. QI believes that “out” is an OCR (optical character recognition) error and has replaced “out” with “cut”. If you plan to use this quotation please include this note or visit the Crimson website and use the original text.

[GPLF] 1981 October 16, Tri City Herald, Smoke Protesters Quit Smelter Stack, [Associated Press], Page 16, Column 1, [GNA Page 9], Kennewick, Washington. (Google News Archive)

[GPSH] 1983 March 18, Sydney Morning Herald, [Advertisement for Greenpeace] I’m still not safe, Page 11, Column 5, Sydney, Australia. (Google News Archive)

[OXLF] 2009, The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, Edited by Jennifer Speake, Entry: When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, etc., Oxford University Press. (Accessed via Oxford Reference Online on 2011 October 20)

[OXDP] 2009, The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, Edited by Jennifer Speake, Previously co-edited with John Simpson, Fifth Edition, Keyword: LAST,  Entry: “When the LAST tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money”, Page 177, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom. (Amazon Look Inside; Accessed July 17, 2012)

[NYCI] 1995 August 17, New York Times, Letter to the Editor: The Last Tree by Janet Townsend of Pleasantville, N.Y., New York. (Online archive of New York Times at nytimes.com; Accessed 2011 October 19) link

10 Shocking Facts About Society That We Absurdly Accept As Normal

When you take a moment and look around at the world, things can seem pretty messed up. Take 5 or 10 minutes and watch the 6 o’clock news. Chances are, the entire time, all you are going to see is war, conflict, death, illness, etc. Sure, this is part of the mainstream media’s content strategy to sell drama and keep people focused on it, but besides that, it reveals something real about the current state of our world.

I believe Michael Ellner said it well in his quote: “Just look at us. Everything is backwards, everything is upside down. Doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, psychiatrists destroy minds, scientists destroy truth, major media destroys information, religions destroy spirituality and governments destroy freedom.”

Now obviously Ellner’s quote is a simplified way of looking at our current state, but in many ways it’s bang on. Most of what we do in the name of “good” ends up destroying something else in the process and is passed off mainly in the name of profit.

We’ve seen over and over again how our ways have brought us to a point where we are destroying everything in our path, so the question must be asked, isn’t it time for change? Are we fully capable, honest, and determined enough to look at our past, where our actions and thought-patterns have brought us to this point, and now do something completely different in order to restore balance?

The people over at The Free World Charter believe it’s time for that and have put together a list of facts about society we oddly accept as normal.

10 Facts About Our Society That We Oddly Accept As Normal

We prioritize money and the economy over basics like air, water, food quality, our environment, and our communities.
We utilize an economic trading system that facilitates the death of millions of people each year.
We divide the world’s land into sections and then fight over who owns these sections.
We call some people “soldiers” which makes it OK for them to kill other people.
We torture and kill millions of animals every day needlessly for food, clothing, and experiments.
We send children to school for their entire childhood to memorize facts and skills that they will rarely use. More on education here.
We impose financial pressures on parents, forcing them to miss out on vital stages of their child’s development.
We have thousands of religions, each one believing that their God or god-story is the only true and unique version.
Love and compassion, which promote life, are mocked as facile. Whereas war, which harms life, is seen as honorable.
Anyone with a really useful invention can forcefully prevent others from using or modifying it.

What Would Your World Look Like?

Tell us what your world would look like. The bottom line is, we are in a very transformational time in our world. Solutions are needed and they are needed quickly. Share your ideas with the community in the comments below.

H/T The Free World Charter

  1. 10 Shocking Facts About Society That We Absurdly Accept As Normal

50 Smartest Companies 2016

Each year we identify 50 companies that are “smart” in the way they create new opportunities. Some of this year’s stars are large companies, like Amazon and Alphabet, that are using digital technologies to redefine industries. Others are wrestling with technological changes: companies like Microsoft, Bosch, Toyota, and Intel. Also on the list are ambitious startups like 23andMe, a pioneer in consumer-accessible DNA testing; 24M, a reinventor of battery technology; and Didi Chuxing, a four-year-old ride-hailing app that’s beating Uber in the Chinese market. Still, despite the excitement of recent advances in such fields as artificial intelligence and genomic medicine, technology has failed to energize the overall economy. In our opening essay, we explore why that is so and what needs to change.

1

Amazon

  • Headquarters

    Seattle, Washington

  • Industry Internet & Digital Media
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $337 billion

Last year we included Amazon on our list of the 50 Smartest Companies for incorporating robots into its fulfillment centers. This year the standout is the surprising success of its Alexa Voice Service and the growing family of devices it powers (the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Tap). Alexa makes it easy to search the Web, play music, and adjust your lights and thermostat—just by speaking inside your home. Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud-computing operation, also deserves notice as the industry leader and Amazon’s fastest-growing and most profitable division.

$89.99 What the Echo Dot, the most affordable device to feature Alexa Voice Service, sells for.

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2

Baidu

  • Headquarters

    Beijing, China

  • Industry Internet & Digital Media
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $55 billion

Outside its core business of Internet search and ad sales, Baidu is doing notable work on speech recognition and conversational interfaces. In 2015, it announced the development of a speech recognition engine called Deep Speech 2 that uses deep learning to recognize spoken words, sometimes more accurately than a person can. Baidu conducts AI research in part to improve its products and services and better compete with rivals such as Alibaba and Tencent. The company is also aggressively pursuing the autonomous-car market and recently established a team in Silicon Valley to lead research and engineering in computer vision, robotics, and sensors, among other areas.

100 Baidu plans to employ more than 100 autonomous-car researchers and engineers in California by year’s end.

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3

Illumina

  • Headquarters

    San Diego, California

  • Industry Biotech
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $20 billion

The world’s largest DNA-sequencing company hopes to expand its technology’s role in diagnosing illness. This year it formed a new company to develop blood tests that cost $1,000 or less and can detect many types of cancer before symptoms arise, greatly improving the chances of survival. The spinoff, called Grail, is being headed by Jeff Huber, a former senior Google executive who lost his wife to colon cancer. The testing concept, sometimes called a “liquid biopsy,” uses Illumina’s high-speed sequencing machines to scour a person’s blood for fragments of DNA released by cancer cells.

$2.2 billion Revenue reached last year, up 19 percent from the previous year.

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4

Tesla Motors

  • Headquarters

    Palo Alto, California

  • Industry Transportation
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $28 billion

Tesla topped this list last year for its plan to extend its battery technology from cars to residential and commercial applications. This year, Tesla’s Autopilot technology stands out for the way it integrates feedback from a camera, radar, ultrasonic sensors, and GPS to aid drivers on highways, help them avoid collisions, and assist them in parking. Besides advancing semi-autonomous driving, Tesla is also making electric vehicles more accessible by introducing its most affordable car yet, the $35,000 Model 3.

50 percent According to CEO Elon Musk, drivers have a 50 percent lower chance of having an accident when driving with Tesla Autopilot.

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5

Aquion Energy

  • Headquarters

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Industry Energy
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Valuation not available, $190 million raised

Aquion continues to raise money for its innovative batteries, which have made it a successful startup in a notoriously tough industry. Investors include Bill Gates and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as well as the corporate venture capital arms of energy industry giants Shell and Total. Invented by Carnegie Mellon professor Jay Whitacre, the batteries are made with nontoxic materials that can provide long-term storage of energy from solar, wind, and other intermittent sources at a very low cost. Whitacre says the company’s been disciplined in its development of a manufacturing process, basing it on existing models and materials to improve its chance of working.

Backers Include Bill Gates, Shell.

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6

Mobileye

  • Headquarters

    Jerusalem, Israel

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $8 billion

How can automakers compete with companies developing self-driving vehicles, such as Google parent Alphabet? One increasingly popular option is to partner with Mobileye, which makes machine vision systems and motion detection algorithms that warn drivers when they are deviating from driving lanes or about to collide with cars in front of them. Mobileye is already working on autopilot and collision avoidance technology for Audi, BMW, General Motors, Nissan, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Volvo and recently inked an agreement with two undisclosed automakers to provide systems for fully autonomous cars.

600 Number of employees who are annotating the images used to train its autonomous driving system.

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7

23andMe

  • Headquarters

    Mountain View, California

  • Industry Biotech
  • Status Private
  • Valuation $1.1 billion valuation

Now focused on getting its customers to share their data with medical researchers, 23andMe has partnered with leading medical centers, including Stanford and Mount Sinai. To date, the company has gathered DNA from more than one million customers, more than 80 percent of whom they say are participating in research.

One million The company has sequenced the DNA of more than one million customers.

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8

Alphabet

  • Headquarters

    Mountain View, California

  • Industry Internet & Digital Media
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $491 billion

Google parent company Alphabet pursues many projects, including a number of riskier “moon shot” technologies, but its ventures into AI and autonomous driving are the standouts. Earlier this year, DeepMind—which is part of Google—attracted global attention for beating a world champion player at the game Go. The matchup revealed the sophistication of its AI technology. Alphabet also continues to work on fully autonomous cars and recently signed a deal to incorporate its technology into Chrysler minivans—its first partnership with a major automaker.

1.6 million Number of miles Alphabet’s autonomous cars have driven so far.

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9

Spark Therapeutics

  • Headquarters

    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • Industry Biotech
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $918 million

The company’s focus is on developing one-time, life-altering treatments for debilitating genetic diseases, a whole new model of personalized, precise treatment. Many of its key personnel come from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and their work focuses on finding treatments for rare diseases where no or only palliative therapies exist currently.

Collaborators Corporate collaborators have included Pfizer, Genable Technologies, and Clearside Biomedical.

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10

Huawei

  • Headquarters

    Shenzhen, China

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Valuation not available

Huawei has been selling cell phones for more than a decade and smartphones since 2009, but it long struggled to break into the premium-device and U.S. markets. Its 2015 launch of the Nexus 6P phone, which it co-designed and manufactured for Google, showed it can make high-end, high-quality smartphones. Continued strength in entry-level devices, coupled with growing clout in more expensive phones, helped Huawei grow smartphone shipments 58 percent year-over-year and become the no. 3 smartphone vendor worldwide.

27.5 million Number of smartphones Huawei shipped in the first quarter of 2016, according to market researcher IDC.

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11

First Solar

  • Headquarters

    Tempe, Arizona

  • Industry Energy
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $5 billion

First Solar designs and manufactures solar panels using a low-cost thin-film semiconductor technology and also develops solar farms that utilities can use. It differs from many solar companies in that it is in the black, making $546 million in profit in 2015 on nearly $3.6 billion in revenue.

$546 million Profits earned in 2015.

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12

Nvidia

  • Headquarters

    Santa Clara, California

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $22 billion

A number of chip makers are targeting the autonomous-car market, and Nvidia is distinguishing itself by offering an entire platform and accompanying software development kit for self-driving cars. The platform uses AI to give vehicles “360° situational awareness.” Nvidia says that more than 50 automakers (including Audi, BMW, Ford, and Tesla), suppliers, developers, and research institutions are experimenting with the platform. Nvidia is also using its strength in gaming graphics chips to move into the VR market and released a platform (chip module plus developer kit) for drones last year.

$1.3 billion Revenue increased 13 percent in the most recent quarter, to $1.3 billion, compared with $1.15 billion a year ago.

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13

Cellectis

  • Headquarters

    New York City, New York

  • Industry Biotech
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $1 billion

Cellectis is scheduled to do a formal trial of its engineered immune cells as a leukemia treatment as soon as this year. This field of immune engineering was one of our 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2016, and Cellectis is shaping its early development.

$300 million Though not profitable, the company has over $300 million in cash, enough to last through 2018.

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14

Enlitic

  • Headquarters

    San Francisco, California

  • Industry Biotech
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Valuation not available, $15 million raised

Enlitic produces deep-learning software that can analyze x-rays. It’s being tested by radiologists in Australia, which will be key to establishing how well it can help doctors make diagnoses and design treatments. The recent departure of its founder Jeremy Howard, well known in the machine-learning field, seems to pose a challenge for the company, but new leadership asserts that applications of its algorithms will soon expand to the detection of lung cancer and bone fractures.

50 percent Claims its algorithm read chest CT images 50 percent more accurately than experts in its own test.

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15

Facebook

  • Headquarters

    Menlo Park, California

  • Industry Internet & Digital Media
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $345 billion

Facebook continues to develop its mobile advertising business and refine its mobile apps, but the Oculus Rift is its most exciting technology right now. Following years of anticipation, the virtual-reality headset was released in late March.

$599 Rift sells for $599.

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16

SpaceX

  • Headquarters

    Hawthorne, California

  • Industry Transportation
  • Status Private
  • Valuation $12 billion

If spaceflight were more affordable, more missions could be flown, more scientific discoveries could be made, and new business opportunities could open up. SpaceX has figured out the first step toward driving down costs by landing its rocket boosters on ships after sending them into space. Retrieving rockets makes it possible to reuse them. SpaceX plans to eventually schedule launches every few weeks.

Four Number of times SpaceX attempted to land a rocket on a barge before succeeding.

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17

Toyota

  • Headquarters

    Toyota City, Japan

  • Industry Transportation
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $152 billion

The Toyota Research Institute will study the future of mobility, artificial intelligence, and robotics. Other recent forward-looking moves include the launch of Mirai, a hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle for the mass market. Mirai has a range of over 300 miles and emits only water vapor. Toyota is now working on developing a network of affordable hydrogen fuel stations.

Leader Roboticist Gill Pratt is CEO of the Toyota Research Institute.

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18

Airware

  • Headquarters

    San Francisco, California

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Valuation not available, $70 million raised

Airware is already one of the biggest drone startups, having raised more than $70 million in venture funding, and it is poised to become much bigger. Rather than actually making drones, it provides a control system for any type of drone.

Leader Airware’s founder and CEO also leads an investment fund that supports businesses creating technologies for commercial drones.

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19

IDE Technologies

  • Headquarters

    Kadima, Israel

  • Industry Energy
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Valuation not available (owned in equal parts by publicly traded Delek Group and Israel Chemical)

Its large-scale desalination process is finding more customers. In the U.S. IDE won the job of reactivating a mothballed plant in Santa Barbara, California, and its prospects look strong as long as extracting salt from water to make it potable continues to be economical. Demand will certainly be there: worldwide, some 700 million people don’t have access to enough clean water, and that number is expected to explode to 1.8 billion by 2025.

30 percent By October IDE will be producing 30 percent of Santa Barbara’s water.

20

Tencent

  • Headquarters

    Shenzhen, China

  • Industry Transportation
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $193 billion

Tencent is Asia’s largest Internet company, with a well-used Web portal and a messaging app, WeChat, that is China’s largest. The company recently branched into the enterprise market by launching a business-focused version of WeChat that facilitates communication (messages, phone calls, e-mails) between colleagues, as well as employee expense reports and other record-keeping. Since Tencent derives most of its revenue from online and smartphone games, it has also been investing in mobile-games companies, including the U.S. firms Glu Mobile, and Pocket Gems. It recently bought Riot Games, which makes the hit League of Legends.

78 percent Tencent’s largest business segment, mostly games, accounts for 78 percent of its revenue.

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21

Didi Chuxing

  • Headquarters

    Beijing, China

  • Industry Transportation
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Reported valuation $28 billion

Chinese roads are jammed, and a rise in car ownership has led to a jump in people interested in part-time driving work, but competition with Uber has been fierce. Uber and Didi are battling for market share by paying drivers subsidies to pick up rides. Didi claims its drivers complete 14 million rides a day to Uber’s one million. The company’s ambitions don’t end at China’s borders. It has partnerships in India and Southeast Asia, including stakes in Lyft and Indian ride-share app Ola.

14 million Number of rides its drivers complete a day.

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22

Oxford Nanopore

  • Headquarters

    Oxford, United Kingdom

  • Industry Biotech
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Valuation not available, $355 million raised

Its sequencer is small and portable—greatly expanding its applications and market—because it analyzes DNA by drawing the molecules through tiny, delicate pores. The platform, which went on sale in 2015 and is enough of a threat to competitor Illumina to draw a lawsuit, can analyze DNA, RNA, proteins, and other types of molecules. Potential applications include scientific research, personalized medicine, food safety, crop science, and security and defense. It will soon be tested in space.

Intellectual property Illumina, once an investor, is now suing the company for patent infringement.

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23

24M

  • Headquarters

    Cambridge, Massachusetts

  • Industry Energy
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Valuation not available, $50 million raised

Lithium-ion batteries power everything from smartphones and tablets to electric cars and buses. They are expensive, however, and cumbersome to manufacture. Startup 24M developed a new design and manufacturing process that will cut costs. The battery industry is striving to produce batteries that cost $100 per kilowatt-hour or less, and 24M says its batteries will cross that threshold sooner than competitors—by 2020.

50 percent The company claims it can reduce the cost of lithium-ion batteries by 50 percent.

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24

Alibaba

  • Headquarters

    Hangzhou, China

  • Industry Internet & Digital Media
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $192 billion

Alibaba, which runs an eBay-like store, a popular virtual mall, and other e-commerce services, is now the world’s largest online marketplace as measured by annual gross merchandise volume. The growth of mobile and video ads also favors Alibaba, which already dominates the Chinese mobile-ad market and recently acquired Youku Tudou, China’s largest online video service. Beyond China, Alibaba has become a backer of other technology companies. In the past year, it invested in Groupon, Magic Leap, and Snapchat in the U.S., as well as the Indian payments and commerce business Paytm and Singapore’s national postal and logistics company, SingPost.

$485 billion Gross value of merchandise sold through Alibaba in its last fiscal year.

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25

Bristol-Myers Squibb

  • Headquarters

    New York City, New York

  • Industry Biotech
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $119 billion

Leads in cancer immunotherapy, working on “checkpoint inhibitors” for numerous forms of cancer. Opdivo, one of two inhibitors the company markets, works by allowing immune-system T cells to attack cancer. It’s approved for skin, lung, and kidney cancer, and when successful, the treatments appear to have enabled patients’ immune systems to eradicate their tumors. It is expensive, however, and that has caused issues with European regulators.

Five years One-third of patients with advanced melanoma survived for five years in a study of Opdivo.

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26

Microsoft

  • Headquarters

    Redmond, Washington

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $405 billion

When we included Microsoft on last year’s list for its HoloLens augmented-reality technology, the system had not yet shipped. Now a preproduction “Developer Edition” is available and Microsoft is starting to use it for augmented-reality experiences. Attempting to switch its focus from desktop software to cloud and mobile services, and having recently announced a mammoth $26 billion purchase of business social network LinkedIn, the company is also pushing forward with innovative research, including some on deep neural networks that it has incorporated into Skype for simultaneous language translation. The research will also be applied to a variety of computer vision tasks.

152 A Microsoft network that won a global image recognition contest in 2015 used 152 layers of virtual neurons.

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27

Fanuc

  • Headquarters

    Oshino-mura, Japan

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $30 billion

Fanuc began as part of Fujitsu and is the world’s largest maker of industrial robots. It recently announced a novel technology that will connect robots to networks so factory owners can download apps to them. In June 2015, Fanuc also partnered with a Japanese machine-learning company to create artificial-intelligence technology that enables its robots to learn skills independently.

Eight Number of hours a Fanuc robot needs to learn a task with 90 percent accuracy.

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28

Sonnen

  • Headquarters

    Wildpoldsried, Germany

  • Industry Energy
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Valuation not available, more than $20 million raised, including GE Ventures’ recent investment

Its system connects homes with solar panels to lithium batteries in a storage system it calls a virtual power plant, offering consumers electricity that is 25 percent cheaper than power from the grid. The company’s new trading platform gives German homeowners a way to both purchase power and sell excess solar power across the utility grid.

25 percent Electricity on its system is 25 percent cheaper than the electricity on the grid, according to the company.

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29

Improbable

  • Headquarters

    London, United Kingdom

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Valuation Valuation not available, $22 million raised

The company, which came out of work done originally when the founders were students at the University of Cambridge, is developing an environment for building virtual worlds at a new scale and complexity. With advances in robotics and driverless cars, such simulations have become more important as a testing ground. Improbable’s technology allows large amounts of information to be shared between multiple servers nearly instantaneously, which is appealing to gaming developers looking to allow many players to experience a virtual world together.

Funding Andreessen Horowitz is a major backer.

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30

Movidius

  • Headquarters

    San Mateo, California

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Valuation not available, $90 million raised

Movidius makes chips for computer-vision applications, which will be necessary to develop smarter mobile devices and drones. Google’s Tango tablet uses Movidius chips, as does DJI’s Phantom 4 drone. Movidius also recently announced a new chip geared for augmented and virtual reality.

On the radar Drones using Movidius technology can sense obstacles to avoid collisions.

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31

Intrexon

  • Headquarters

    Germantown, Maryland

  • Industry Biotech
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $3 billion

Its Oxitec division’s genetically engineered mosquito, which yields offspring that die quickly, has been released in Grand Cayman and parts of Brazil in an attempt to reduce the spread of Zika and other diseases. In March, the World Health Organization recommended a pilot deployment of Oxitec’s solution. The company has been buying up companies specializing in synthetic biology in a variety of applications, but it has not been transparent about how its technology works, leading to some negative speculation about the company.

$174 million Acquisitions increased sales from $8 million to $174 million in five years.

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32

Carbon

  • Headquarters

    Redwood City, California

  • Industry Energy
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Valuation not available, $141 million raised

Carbon has developed a new technique based on stereolithography that it says is as much as 100 times faster than rivals’ 3-D printing methods and fast enough to be used in place of injection molding to produce certain parts. Carbon will face competition from HP, which has its own new printing technology based on a different class of materials. But the startup is backed by some high-powered investors, including Google Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Silver Lake Kraftwerk, and its board members include the former CEOs of Ford and DuPont.

$40,000 Use of its 3-D printers costs $40,000 a year.

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33

Bosch

  • Headquarters

    Stuttgart, Germany

  • Industry Transportation
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Valuation not available

Bosch’s vision for an industrial Internet of things starts with manufacturing facilities that are becoming increasingly connected and automated, a way to increase productivity in an era of global competition and relatively high domestic wages. The company estimates that by 2020 technologies like connected assembly lines, predictive maintenance, and machines that can do some self-monitoring will combine to boost company revenue by more than $1 billion while saving a comparable amount in operational expenses.

$80 billion Record revenue generated in 2015.

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34

T2 Biosystems

  • Headquarters

    Lexington, Massachusetts

  • Industry Biotech
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $201 million

T2 Biosystems has begun selling its technology for detecting the pathogenic fungus Candida, an often deadly infection. The test is run in three to five hours, as opposed to two to six days, and today 16 hospitals use it.

35 Number of customers who now use the company’s bench-top diagnostic system.

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35

Editas Medicine

  • Headquarters

    Cambridge, Massachusetts

  • Industry Biotech
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $1 billion

A pioneer of the controversial and exciting CRISPR gene-editing technology, Editas intends to begin testing a new form of gene repair in humans in 2017. The idea is to use CRISPR to cut out the genetic mutation that causes Leber’s congenital amaurosis, a rare retinal disease that leads to blindness, so the cell can repair itself with a normal version. Though CRISPR technology was invented just a few years ago, it is so precise and cheap to use that it has quickly become a tool in biology laboratories.

$94 million Money raised in its February IPO, and the stock is up 85 percent since then.

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36

Nestlé

  • Headquarters

    Vevey, Switzerland

  • Industry Biotech
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $238 billion

Food giant Nestlé has jumped into microbiome research, working to develop “healthy gut” products for its Health Science division. Among its bets on nutritional therapies, the company has made repeated investments in Seres Therapeutics, most recently investing $120 million in the company to support its efforts to develop medicines aimed at the bacteriological balance in the digestive tract. The first experimental treatments are focused on Clostridium difficile infection and inflammatory bowel disease.

$2 billion At a slow time for its core food business, its nutritional therapies division has reached $2 billion in annual revenue in its first five years, and more strong growth is predicted.

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37

RetroSense Therapeutics

  • Headquarters

    Ann Arbor, Michigan

  • Industry Biotech
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Valuation not available, $12 million raised

Its therapy uses optogenetics, a technology that uses a combination of gene therapy and light to precisely control nerves. In its treatment of retinitis pigmentosa, the eye is injected with viruses carrying DNA from light-sensitive algae; this is intended to confer light sensitivity on certain nerve cells in the eye.

$12 million Revenue raised from foundations and private investors as well as the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

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38

Line, subsidiary of Naver

  • Headquarters

    Tokyo, Japan

  • Industry Internet & Digital Media
  • Status Private
  • Valuation expected to be more than $5 billion

Line’s growth has slowed, but it is still a leader among the world’s messaging apps when it comes to making money from its users. The company steadily introduces new features, such as chatbot functionality for corporate marketing campaigns and group calls for up to 200 people. (In comparison, Skype limits group calls to 25 people.) In its home market of Japan, Line offers taxi booking inside its app and will soon provide phone service through a deal with Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo. Its IPO expected later this year could value the company at more than $5 billion.

218 million Number of monthly active users.

39

TransferWise

  • Headquarters

    London, United Kingdom

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Status Private
  • Valuation $1.1 billion

TransferWise matches people who looking to make currency trades around the world, at much lower fees than traditional institutions. It has already captured 5 percent of the U.K.’s money-transfer market and recently expanded to the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Mexico, among other places. Its goal of disrupting multinational banks and Western Union has attracted investments from Andreessen Horowitz and Richard Branson, among others.

$750 million Money TransferWise helps users exchange every month.

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40

Veritas Genetics

  • Headquarters

    Danvers, Massachusetts

  • Industry Biotech
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Not available

By making whole-genome sequencing and interpretation affordable, Veritas gives patients and doctors a fuller picture than what’s possible with common genetic tests, improving their diagnostic value. The company also offers cancer screening tests for $199 to $299.

$1,000 Whole-genome sequencing, including interpretation and counseling, costs under $1,000. The supply is limited to 5,000 customers in 2016.

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41

FireEye

  • Headquarters

    Milpitas, California

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $2 billion

The company’s security system can be updated at any time to defend against constantly mutating cyber threats. It also encourages clients to focus on quickly resolving attacks, not just trying to avoid them. FireEye has grown to a significant size in an often fragmented industry, and it’s been hired to investigate high-profile cybersecurity failures at JPMorgan Chase, Sony Pictures, and Target.

In the works New products focus on securing public and private clouds and detecting targeted e-mail attacks.

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42

Seven Bridges

  • Headquarters

    Cambridge, Massachusetts

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Valuation not available, $45 million raised

Its bioinformatics software platform runs one of the world’s largest genomic data sets, the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Genome Atlas. This gives cancer researchers worldwide immediate access to a petabyte of patient data and computational resources to analyze it, facilitating research collaboration. Seven Bridges is also analyzing data from the 100,000 genomes collected by the British National Health Service. The company’s long-term vision is to support drug research and the practice of precision medicine customized to each patient.

11,000 Number of patients that have contributed 33 cancer types and subtypes to its Cancer Genomics Cloud.

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43

Slack

  • Headquarters

    San Francisco, California

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Status Private
  • Valuation $4 billion

In the past year, Slack’s number of daily users increased from 750,000 to three million. During that time, the company rolled out voice calls as a beta feature and launched a directory for third-party apps, an $80 million fund to invest in Slack developers, and a toolkit for creating chatbots. It also introduced a “Sign In with Slack” feature that lets business users sign up for apps using their Slack identity credentials. The momentum helped Slack raise $200 million more in funding, for a current total of $540 million, at a valuation of $3.8 billion.

Three million Number of daily active Slack users.

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44

Coupang

  • Headquarters

    Seoul, South Korea

  • Industry Internet & Digital Media
  • Status Private
  • Valuation $5 billion

Originally a Groupon clone, Coupang is now widely viewed as the Amazon.com of Korea. Like Amazon, it is betting on same-day delivery as an amenity to lure consumers. It has invested millions in a sophisticated logistics system that spans warehouses, trucks, thousands of delivery people, and proprietary algorithms to link everything together. Coupang is also focused on making it easier and more compelling to buy items via smartphone. The aggressive approach brought in $1 billion in funding from Japan’s SoftBank last year.

$5 billion Coupang’s most recent valuation.

45

IBM

  • Headquarters

    Armonk, New York

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $142 billion

IBM remains in turnaround mode. It has suffered 16 consecutive quarters of declining sales but continues to invest in cloud computing and analytics. Part of that investment involves buying up companies such as Truven Health Analytics and the Weather Company. The purchases come with huge data sets IBM can use to train its AI system, Watson.

100 Number of clients that have built Watson into a product.

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46

Snapchat

  • Headquarters

    Los Angeles, California

  • Industry Internet & Digital Media
  • Status Private
  • Valuation $20 billion

Snapchat is still experimenting with innovative new content, which was the reason it made this list last year. This year, Snapchat’s most significant moves relate to expanding its advertising business. Advertisers value Snapchat as a way to reach consumers aged 13 to 34, but they have criticized the company for charging high rates without sharing much data about ads’ performance. Snapchat recently addressed these concerns by signing deals that let Viacom sell ads on its behalf and allow Nielsen to supply campaign data to advertisers.

10 billion Number of videos that are seen on the app every day.

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47

Africa Internet Group

  • Headquarters

    Lagos, Nigeria

  • Industry Internet & Digital Media
  • Status Private
  • Valuation $1 billion

Africa Internet Group (AIG) was founded by the German tech incubator Rocket Internet in 2012 and runs an array of e-commerce companies throughout Africa. Its flagship business is the online retailer Jumia, which it says is Africa’s largest e-commerce mall. It also owns the continent’s leading hotel booking portal and classified-ad marketplaces for cars and real estate. Besides Rocket Internet, AIG has funding from Axa, Goldman Sachs, and two large telecommunications companies: MTN Group and Orange. Though it is not yet profitable, investors view AIG as a way to access Africa’s developing online economy

26 Africa Internet Group operates in 26 African countries.

48

LittleBits

  • Headquarters

    New York City, New York

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Status Private
  • Valuation Valuation not available, $62 million raised

Its mostly open-source building kits are now for sale at Barnes & Noble, and the company has added new executives from Lego and MakerBot.

$299 Basic kits sell for $99 to $299.

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49

Intel

  • Headquarters

    Santa Clara, California

  • Industry Computing & Communications
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $140 billion

Despite its long domination of the PC chip market, Intel has struggled to keep ahead of customer demands, particularly the drive for mobile computing. Now the company is trying to find better footing in new domains such as the cloud and Internet-connected devices, experimenting with reprogrammable processors for deep neural networks, and moving a fundamentally new kind of computer memory to market.

$16.7 billion Money Intel spent to buy Altera, a maker of programmable logic devices.

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50

Monsanto

  • Headquarters

    St. Louis, Missouri

  • Industry Biotech
  • Status Public
  • Valuation $44 billion

Monsanto is using RNA interference to create alternatives to conventional genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Already able to kill bugs by getting them to eat leaves coated with specially designed RNA, the company is now trying to develop sprays that penetrate plant cells to block certain plant genes. Potential applications include ideas like a spray that causes tomatoes to taste better or one that helps plants survive a drought. In May, Bayer made a $62 billion offer for the company, which Monsanto turned down, though management did indicate an openness to discussing further offers.

$1.5 billion Money invested last year in research on new biotech traits, genomics, and more.