Weekend Briefing No. 109

Weekend Briefing No. 109 | Giving Away $45 Billion, Water From Thin Air, The Cyborgs Are Among Us, Pentagon’s Trick Plays, Bootstrapping

Welcome to the weekend. 

This week Google’s AI beat the Go world champion. Google’s AlphaGo won the first in a series of five matches. The 3,000-year-old board game, which is infinitely more complex than chess, pits the DeepMind AI’s learning abilities against a human expert.

Michael Bloomberg announced that he definitely is not running for president.

Obama announced a monthly subsidy of $9.25 for poor families to gain access to broadband internet. It’s part of an overhaul of its Lifeline program, which has subsidized phone services since 1985.

If you are looking for some fresh Spring tunes, check out my March Playlist.


Weekend Briefing

How to give away $45 billion. “Move fast and break things” is a fine mentality for Facebook, but does it work for solving the world’s intractable problems? Somewhere between institutional bloat and “break things,” Zuckerberg has the opportunity to do something quietly, unsexily awesome. He shouldn’t think of himself as a venture capitalist. He should think of himself as a mutual fund manager. Find promising organizations, perform due diligence, link them to a portfolio of other agencies doing good work—then give them money and get out of their way. He’ll hire people who have been affected by the problems he’s trying to solve. He will ignore NGOs that promise to “flip” anything, and he will distrust anyone whose Twitter bio includes the words “thought leader.” Dive deeper at Highline. (28 mins) I found this from my friend Brad Grossman’s Zeitguide #Ripouts weekly email. I’d recommend subscribing.

Creating water from thin air. A new nano-coating that can pull water out of the air might allow us to harvest water where there seems to be none, like the moisture farms in Star Wars. Researchers at Harvard University have modeled their new material on the shell of the Namib desert beetle, but they’ve also taken aspects of cactus spines and the slippery surface of the pitcher plant. This mix-and-match approach to biomimicry is a radical innovation. This could be a big deal in arid, water-deficient areas. Learn more at Fast Company. (2 mins)

The cyborgs are among us. Implanted NFC chips, encased in biocompatible glass, programmed to communicate with devices, allow people to unlock their phones, open doors, turn lights on and off or even buy a beer with a literal wave of the hand. Pretty soon human nervous systems will be connected to computer chips. People with such implants we call cyborgs. Currently computers are currently clunky external devices that sit on tables or in our pockets, but it’s very possible that they will become as intuitive and as integral to our systems to use as our kidneys. Ultimately, some say, this could make us more ethical by removing animal impulses, such as a lust for food or sex, and create a more sustainable, easily shared world.  Learn more at Mosaic. (23 mins)

Pentagon’s trick plays. The story of SCO — pronounced “Skoh” — is one that underscores the Pentagon’s efforts to prepare for new strategic threats. SCO is charged with creating new “trick plays” for the Pentagon through creativity and engineering, using old weapons, teaming existing equipment together or adding new commercial technology. Project Avatar, and calls for the Pentagon to pair high-tech “fifth-generation” fighter jets with unmanned versions of older jets as a sort of “loyal wingman”. Project Peredix is exploring how swarms of mini drones could be used to confuse enemy forces and carry out surveillance missions. Learn more in the Washington Post. (6 mins)

Saying no to outside capital. Startup success is typically judged by money raised and valuations. This successful SaaS company received a lot of attention from investors, but chose not to take outside capital because: 1. They didn’t have an exact plan for the money. 2. They wanted to retain control of the company. 3. They wanted to keep the equity and retain more of the value of the company as it grows.  They ran the numbers if they had taken outside capital.  By the end of 2017, the company with funding would be worth $10.4MM, but the owners would only own 80% of the company. So owner equity is actually $8.3MM (80% of $10.4MM). Without funding, the company would be worth $8.9MM, but owner equity is worth more since it’s at 100%. Learn more at Hubstaff. (8 mins)


Video of the Week

Worry. Jack Garratt is a bundle of emotion and energy. He’s also an impressive one-man-band. Check out his performance on Stephen Colbert. This track is also the first track on my March playlist. Thanks to Abraham Walters for sharing.


Things I Like

Why six hours of sleep is as bad as none at all. Subjects in a lab-based sleep study who were allowed to get only six hours of sleep a night for two weeks straight functioned as poorly as those who were forced to stay awake for two days straight. The kicker is the people who slept six hours per night thought they were doing just fine.

The calendar watch. Sometimes less is more. That’s the idea behind this elegant analog watch with a very simple way to remind you of your upcoming meetings.

25 songs that tell us where music is going. From the cast of Hamilton to Wilco. From Coldplay to Run The Jewels. From Sun Kil Moon to the Biebs, this multimedia New York Times Magazine feature gives us a glimpse of where music is going.


About the Weekend Briefing

The Weekend Briefing is a selection of this week’s top stories on innovation and society, curated by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway.

Thanks for making the Weekend Briefing to be a part of your Saturday morning routine. Have a restful and thoughtful weekend.