Weekend Briefing No. 230

Welcome to the weekend. Hello from Tennessee where I’m spending time with my family on the lake. First of all, I wanted to say thanks. I got a ton of encouraging responses to last week’s briefing on unplugging. You’ll see some below in the Feedback Loop section.

This week is a different (and hopefully fun) briefing because all the main stories are videos instead of articles.

Prime Numbers

54.4 MM – There are now 54.4 million smart speaker devices in the US market. Amazon has the lead, with Google as a distant second. 

4100 – Once driverless car-sharing comes online, in the best-case scenario, a family that gives up its car in favor of driverless ride sharing could save $4,100 in annual transportation costs.

13 –Actual stoppage time is a wildly inaccurate measure of how long World Cup games were actually stopped. The average added time flashed on the board for 32 games was 6:59. The time that should have been added to each game was 13:10. This means stoppage time was roughly half of what it should have been for most games.

Drones v. Fireworks

Call it Fourth of July 2.0: Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield saw a drone light show instead of fireworks to celebrate Independence Day. This is the first time Intel’s Shooting Star drones were used on Independence Day, the Santa Clara company says, although they were used at the Olympics, the Super Bowl halftime show featuring Lady Gaga, Coachella and more. Intel also showed off its first indoor drone show at last week’s Pride Parade in San Francisco. For the Travis show, the chipmaker developed a drone light show that used 500 drones and was synchronized to music. It also had animations that represents the history of Travis Air Force Base. The base is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Check out this video. San Jose Mercury News (2 minutes)

CRISPR

CRISPR technology is a simple yet powerful tool for editing genomes. It allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops. However, its promise also raises ethical concerns. I think this will be one of the most important technologies of our time. I’ve mentioned it many times over the years in the Weekend Briefing, but if you haven’t taken the time to learn about it you should check out this video segment which, while funny, brings up some salient points. Last Week Tonight (20 minutes)

Quantum Computing

Quantum computing is a new type of computation to help solve really complex problems that our classical computers can’t. A “classical computer,” like the one you’re reading this on (either desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone), is also referred to as a “binary computer” because all of the functions it performs are based on either ones or zeros. On a binary computer the processor uses transistors to perform calculations. Each transistor can be on or off, which indicates the one or zero used to compute the next step in a program or algorithm. There’s more to it than that, but the important thing to know about binary computers is the ones and zeros they use as the basis for computations are called “bits.” Quantum computers don’t use bits; they use qubits. Qubits, aside from sounding way cooler, have extra functions that bits don’t. Instead of only being represented as a one or zero, qubits can actually be both at the same time. Often qubits, when unobserved, are considered to be “spinning.” Instead of referring to these types of “spin qubits” using ones or zeros, they’re measured in states of “up,” “down,” and “both.” Watch this video where a quantum computing expert explains this challenging concept to 5 different people from a kid to an expert. WIRED (20 minutes)

ICO Boom

Despite shadiness and crackdowns, the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) boom is bigger than ever. The initial coin offering marketplace has a sketchy reputation thanks to scammers, and it’s in the spotlight of financial regulators all over the world—but that hasn’t scared investors away yet. Quite the opposite, in fact initial coin offerings raised $11.8 billion between January and May of 2018—compared with $5.5 billion in all of 2017. That’s despite incredible churn among ICOs: more than 1,000 digital coins have already gone kaput. Two monster offerings, Telegram’s for $1.7 billion and EOS’s for $4 billion, make up a big chunk of what investors have shelled out. Even still, more startups are raising more money via token sales this year, according to the WSJ’s analysis. There’s a big difference between a typical ICO now and one in 2017, though. Most of the money is now being raised via private offerings, while public token sales have become rare. Why? Plying retail investors with high-stakes propositions that could (and often do) lose them a ton of money is not a good look. Most ICO projects these days are also taking steps to comply with regulators. What we are seeing is the “normalization” of the ICO market. Watch this video to see the explosion of ICOs since January 2014. MIT Technology Review (2 minutes)

The Middle

How does a pop hit get made? Using voice memos, demos, texts and interviews, this video reconstructs the wild ride of how Zedd, Maren Morris and a 23-year-old Australian songwriter turned a few chords into an enormous hit, “The Middle.” It’s a journey including a writer, producer 18 separate vocalists lasting over a year. New York Times (6 minutes)

Responding to Spam

Suspicious emails: unclaimed insurance bonds, diamond-encrusted safe deposit boxes, close friends marooned in a foreign country. They pop up in our inboxes, and standard procedure is to delete on sight. But what happens when you reply? Follow along as writer and comedian James Veitch narrates a hilarious, weeks-long exchange with a spammer who offered to cut him in on a hot deal. TED (10 minutes)

The Pop Tart Joke

How does Jerry Seinfeld write a joke? He always writes on yellow note pads, no computer. (He doesn’t like that cursor staring at him begin him to be brilliant.) His jokes are really stories. There are a couple key points, but he pays special attention to the transitions, which he measures down to the syllable. Of course, the biggest laugh has to be at the end, which is very daunting. Listen to Jerry explain how he built the Pop Tart joke. New York Times Magazine (5 minutes)

Feedback Loop

Your country playlist is “fire” and I’m from Arkansas so that’s sayin’ something! – Libby Duke

I just wanted to tell you how much this weekend’s email struck a chord with me. I’ve been following your newsletter for years, I look forward to it more than any other.

Your newsletter this week made me realize that I need to invest far more in mindfulness, unplugging, and alone time, which I’ve completely let go of in the rush of things. Thank you for the deeply needed reminder. – Alice Liu

Hey Kyle, great briefing! We’ve been giving a lot of thought to these things at Praxis, as we’ve seen people from our community have a number of practices and rhythms that have enabled them to flourish as thoughtful, well-rounded, and redemptive leaders. We recently published “A Rule of Life for Redemptive Entrepreneurs” for our community here. – Dave Blanchard

Weekend Wisdom

Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake. Wallace Stevens 

About the Weekend Briefing

A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society by Kyle Westaway – Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose.

 

Photo by Michael Ankes