Weekend Briefing No. 202

Welcome to the weekend. Happy holidays! I hope you’re enjoying time with your family and impressing your brother-in-law/cousin/aunt/friend-from-back-home with fun Weekend Briefing facts.

Be present. Be merry.

Prime Numbers

210,000,000 Mariah Carey’s Christmas tune All I Want For Christmas Is You (made popular in the only RomCom worth watching – Love Actually) has been streamed 210MM times on Spotify. It’s the 7th highest selling holiday album of all time. It took her 15 minutes to write the melody and has earned her an estimated $60MM.  

1,000,000 – This week the Pineapple Fund just donated the largest donation of Bitcoin (that I’ve heard of ). $1,000,000 to charity: water. Scott and his team treated the donation like stock and liquidated immediately.

43 Big Oil poster child British Petroleum announced it’s investing $200m into one of Europe’s premier solar companies, Lightsource. The investment will allow BP to gain a 43% stake in Lightsource over the next three years, rename the company Lightsource BP, and take 2 seats on their board.

Generation Screwed

Millennials have 300% more student loans than their parents, they’re about half as likely to own a home as young people in 1975, 1 in 5 live in poverty, and they likely won’t retire until 75. Nationwide, salaries have stagnated and entire sectors have cratered. At the same time, the cost of every prerequisite of a secure existence—education, housing and health care—has inflated into the stratosphere. From job security to the social safety net, all the structures that insulate us from ruin are eroding. And the opportunities leading to a middle-class life—the ones that boomers lucked into—are being lifted out of our reach. Add it all up and it’s no surprise that we’re the first generation in modern history to end up poorer than our parents. This is why the touchstone experience of millennials, the thing that truly defines us, is not helicopter parenting or unpaid internships or Pokémon Go. It is uncertaintyHighline (21 minutes)

Poverty in America

The richest nation the world has ever known has led to investigate the tragedy at its core: the 41 million people who officially live in poverty. California made a suitable starting point for the UN visit. It epitomizes both the vast wealth generated in the tech boom for the 0.001%, and the resulting surge in housing costs that has sent homelessness soaring. Los Angeles, the city with by far the largest population of street dwellers in the country, is grappling with crisis numbers that increased 25% this past year to 55,000. This piece is a first hand tour of poverty from the West Coast to Alabama to Puerto Rico. The Guardian (13 minutes)

Blockchain & the Homeless

Fummi is a new app from Blockchain for Change that lets people on the streets access financial and government services. Three thousand homeless people in New York are about to receive a special holiday gift: a free smartphone that allows them to manage their digital identity, access shelters and food pantries, and make use of financial services. The initiative, which uses blockchain technology, may be the first time a distributed computer ledger has been employed to help a homeless population. The service groups create the blockchain identities for individuals. Once on the system, they can then open an account, receive money, and track their activity. For instance, the app shows when someone has checked into a shelter, how much they paid for showers, haircuts, and clothes, and their available balance.  Fummi aims to be one-stop-shop for all the services the homeless use regularly. Fast Company (3 minutes)

The Future of Groceries

Amazon’s rival JD.com, the second biggest online retailer in China after Alibaba, has already beaten it to the punch. JD announced that it plans to open hundreds of unmanned convenience stores with technology reportedly more advanced than Amazon’s. Its trial shops have already been tested by the 10,000 employees at its Beijing headquarters. JD’s shops will use RFIDs and cameras with facial and image recognition technology on the store ceilings to track each customer’s movement and product selection. As the store learns from a customer’s preferences over time, it will also begin to show personalized advertisements. The same tracking technology will also help store owners restock inventory more efficiently. Quartz (6 minutes)

CRISPR 2018

In just the past few years, advances in CRISPR have been happening at a breakneck speed—and companies have sprung up to commercialize the technology. Now, patients in Europe and the U.S. could be treated with CRISPR-based therapies as soon as 2018 – companies are already requesting that regulators allow clinical trials on humans next year. The hope is that CRISPR could be used in a one-time procedure to cure some of the most devastating inherited disorders and cancers, some of which have no or few current treatment options. Scientists want to deploy the technology to fix genetic errors in a person’s DNA, getting at the root of disease. CRISPR Therapeutics, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, became the first company to ask permission from European regulators to begin a trial next year. The company will use the gene-editing technology to fix a genetic defect in patients with beta thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder. MIT Technology Review (7 minutes)

Autonomous Economics

Fully autonomous vehicles would hit the U.S. workforce hard. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 3.8 million people operate motor vehicles for their livelihood. This includes truck driving, the most common profession in 29 U.S. states, which employs about 1.7 million people. Even if as many jobs disappear or change, there will be new roles formed by autonomous vehicles. One that is already developing is the role of a remote vehicle operator. These operators would be analogous to air traffic controllers at airports. What’s more, the robotic taxi rides of the future will be very different indeed from what we’re used to. A report from Intel predicts that as much as $7 trillion will be invested in the new “passenger economy” by 2050. There will be job openings for positions like masseuses and nail technicians to provide services during rides. MIT Technology Review (3 minutes)

Vita Contemplativa

Before you can be with others, first learn to be alone. The idea of solitude formed the center of Hannah Arendt’s thought. A German-Jewish émigré who fled Nazism and found refuge in the United States, Arendt spent much of her life studying the relationship between the individual and the polis. For her, freedom was tethered to both the private sphere – the vita contemplativa – and the public, political sphere – the vita activa. She understood that freedom entailed more than the human capacity to act spontaneously and creatively in public. It also entailed the capacity to think and to judge in private, where solitude empowers the individual to contemplate her actions and develop her conscience, to escape the cacophony of the crowd – to finally hear herself think.  She said, “A person who does not know that silent intercourse (in which we examine what we say and what we do) will not mind contradicting himself, and this means he will never be either able or willing to account for what he says or does; nor will he mind committing any crime, since he can count on its being forgotten the next moment.” Aeon (9 minutes)

About the Weekend Briefing

The best articles on innovation, impact and growth distilled into one email every Saturday morning by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway.