Weekend Briefing No. 241

Welcome to the weekend.

Prime Numbers

2:01:39 Eliud Kipchoge ran 2:01:39 at the Berlin Marathon to break the world record, becoming the first person in history to go under 2:02 on a record-eligible course. Kipchoge’s average pace per mile: 4:38.4

28 This nurse helped save his life. 28 years later, he turns up in her preemie ward — as a doctor. “Meeting Vilma was a surreal experience,’’ he said. “She cares deeply for her patients, to the point that she was able to remember a patient’s name almost three decades later.’’

5 – The online video game Fortnite helped cause 5% of UK divorces this year.

Blockchain & the Earth

An opportunity is emerging to harness blockchain to address six of today’s most pressing environmental challenges that demand transformative action: climate change, natural disasters, biodiversity loss, ocean-health deterioration, air pollution and water scarcity. Many of these opportunities extend far beyond “tech for good” considerations and are connected to global economic, industrial and human systems. Blockchain provides a strong potential to unlock and monetize value that is currently embedded (but unrealized) in environmental systems, and there is a clear gap within the market. The World Economic Forum and PWC just launched a report that identified more than 65 existing and emerging blockchain use cases for the cluster around the following cross-cutting themes: 1) enabling the transition to cleaner and more efficient decentralized systems; 2) peer-to-peer trading of resources or permits; supply-chain transparency and management; 3) new financing models for environmental outcomes; and 4) the realization of non-financial value and natural capital. PWC (36 minutes)

Geography of Extreme Poverty

Since 2000, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty. The number is so huge that it’s almost impossible to appreciate the scale of this achievement. As a result of successes in Asia, the geography of poverty is changing: extreme poverty is becoming heavily concentrated in sub-Saharan African countries. By 2050, that’s where 86 percent of the extremely poor people in the world are projected to live. Therefore, the world’s priority for the next three decades should be poverty reduction in Africa. One of the obstacles the continent faces is rapid population growth. Africa as a whole is projected to nearly double in size by 2050, which means that even if the percentage of poor people on the continent is cut in half, the number of poor people stays the same. The challenge is that within Africa, poverty is concentrating in just a handful of very fast-growing countries. By 2050, for example, more than 40 percent of the extremely poor people in the world will live in just two countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria. Gates Foundation (8 minutes)

ADAP

Two weeks ago I mentioned that I’m once again partnering with my friends at ADAP Capital on the Deal Room at SOCAP next month. The ADAP Deal Room aims to develop authentic connections between investors and entrepreneurs, with the goal of announcing deals during the conference – real deals in real time! If you’re an early stage social entrepreneur and you haven’t applied yet, do it today because applications close on Tuesday. Apply here. (Sponsored)

Beyond the White Savior Complex

In this talk, my friend and social entrepreneur Kohl Crecelius observes that a core issue with well-intentioned social impact services — and the businesses that seek to support them — is a disconnect between short-term thinking and long-term results. When we seek to meet an immediate need through any sort of intervention, we are inserting ourself into a process and saying to those we are serving that they are incapable of helping themselves. While this is typically true in the short-term, the reality is that long-term success will only happen if it is personally owned. Therefore, it has to be our goal as social entrepreneurs and activists to see through the specific issue at hand, to the people its affecting. We must believe in the capabilities of others and change the mindset of our work away from a savior complex, to one rooted in partnership. The success of our work hinges upon how well we listen. Everything is Inspiration (2 minutes)

Charging Robo-taxis

Electric robo-taxis are a real possibility. Trends in transportation, energy, and demographics indicate that future vehicles will operate autonomously, run on electricity rather than fossil fuels, and be shared instead of privately owned. But how will they stay charged? A startup called WiTricity thinks a form of wireless charging called magnetic resonance is a smarter way to power up. The technology takes energy from the electric grid, via a wire, and feeds it into a copper coil on the ground, creating a magnetic field. When a second copper coil attached to the bottom of the car comes within range of this field, an electric current is generated on the vehicle side, which is used to charge the car’s battery pack. To charge, an electric vehicle (EV) simply needs to park over a coil and wait a few hours. WiTricity says this method is as efficient as inserting a charging cable directly into a car. MIT Technology Review (6 minutes)

Crisis in the System

On the 10th anniversary of the financial crisis, let’s remember what took the global economy to the precipice was a crisis of systems, that understanding it and preventing the next one is about good system design. What brought down the global economy was the instability of a set of complicated interlocking architectures — mortgage securitization, credit derivatives, short-term wholesale bank funding, the bank/shadow-bank nexus, etc. — that in many cases the bank CEOs themselves barely understood. Today at Facebook, Zuck himself may not even understand the platform. He built an online Facebook for Harvard students. It became popular, and now it is enabling mob violence in India, ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, election interference in the U.S., corporate emotional manipulation, the transformation of the news media and also probably just making people sad a lot. That list is sort of random, which is the point; no one at Facebook sat down to build an election interference function. They sat down to build a system for purposes that they thought were good – connecting the world, making piles of money by showing you ads, that sort of thing. All — most, anyway — of the bad effects of Facebook are emergent features of the system that they built for the good effects; that system itself, and its messy interactions with billions of people out in the real world, creates the bad effects. Bloomberg (7 minutes)

Sabbath

When taken seriously, the Sabbath has the power to restructure not only the calendar but also the entire political economy. In place of an economy built upon the profit motive – the ever-present need for more, in fact the need for there to never be enough – the Sabbath puts forward an economy built upon the belief that there is enough, it is time for us, whatever our religious beliefs, to see the Sabbatarian laws of old not as backward and pharisaical, but rather as the liberatory statements they were meant to be. Freeing us from the total work, always-on prisons we’ve built for ourselves. It is time to ask what our society would look like if it made room for a new Sabbath – or, to put it a different way, what our society would need to look like for the Sabbath to be possible. Aeon (13 minutes)

Weekend Wisdom

If you don’t take a Sabbath, something is wrong. You’re doing too much, you’re being too much in charge. You’ve got to quit, one day a week, and just watch what God is doing when you’re not doing anything.Eugene Peterson

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 Mohamed Nohassi