Weekend Briefing No. 263

Welcome to the weekend.

Prime Numbers

670,000 – There are over 670,000 podcasts in the Apple Podcasts directory, and over 210,000 of those published their first episode in 2018. In 2018, an average of 575 podcasts were started every day—that’s about one podcast every three minutes.

76 – Leon Kalajian, Founder of Tom’s Sons International Pleating in the Garment district of Manhattan has been on the job for 76 years. See him and other New Yorkers who have been doing the same thing for 50, 60, 70 years — and love it too much to stop.

14 – Last week the NASA rover Opportunity has fallen silent. Though the rover was designed to go less than a mile and last for 90 days, in its record-breaking time on Mars, the rover drove more than 28 miles and lasted 14 years, finding some of the first definitive signs of past liquid water on the red planet’s surface.

OKR @ Startups

OKRs. The system made famous first by Intel and now by Google asks all employees to outline their major objectives and the quantifiable actions (i.e. key results) it’ll take to achieve them. It’s a technique designed for accountability and enforced with scores. All good OKR systems have these elements: 1) The ability to track results on a quantitative basis. Key results are not general or subjective actions you plan to take. They should always include numbers to make it clear how much has been achieved. For example, if Mary’s objective is to improve her sales prospecting skills, one key result might be to spend two hours a week shadowing Jennifer, the team member who demonstrates the most prospecting success. 2) Make it something people look at, every quarter, every week, every day. This consistency turns goal-setting into a habit and changes how people think about their work and approach their everyday to-dos. It puts in place natural milestones that make you think about what you need to do next and aim high. 3) They have to be a stretch. Most people wouldn’t consider 70% to be a good grade, but for OKRs that’s just about perfect, Davis says. You want your objectives to be ambitious enough to push you beyond your limits. When everyone does this, it forces the tough conversations about what’s truly needed to beat expectations. First Round Review (18 minutes)

Quantum Communication

Barely a week goes by without a new mega-hack exposing a ton of sensitive data. Today, data is usually encrypted then sent across fiber optic cables together with the digital “keys” needed to decide the information. These are both sent as classical bits, representing 1s and 0s. That makes them vulnerable, as hackers can read bits in transit without leaving a trace. Quantum communication could change all that. It allows particles to take on a state of superposition, meaning they can represent multiple combinations of 1 and 0 simultaneously. These particles are known as qubits. If a hacker tries to observe them in transit, their super-fragile quantum state “collapses” to either 1 or 0. This means a hacker can’t tamper with the qubits without leaving behind a telltale sign of the activity. China is in the vanguard of the push toward a quantum internet. It has a 2,032 kilometer quantum key distribution network between Beijing and Shanghai. A US startup is currently creating an 805 kilometer one on the East Coast. MIT Technology Review (8 minutes)

Urban Aquaponics

Inside a repurposed Twin Cities brewery, a massive aquaponics operation is ready to provide a locavore’s dream: fresh produce and fish, raised indoors every month of the year. Today there are some four million plants sprouting from grow racks stacked five stories high, 100,000 rainbow trout and 100,000 arctic char doing laps inside eight open tanks, each seven feet deep. One million gallons of water was flowing through this Urban Organics farm—from fish to plants and back again. Because it’s a closed-loop system, virtually no water is wasted except for a tiny amount (about 2 percent) lost to evaporation. The implications of a system like this are enormous. In the modern economy, most fresh produce is trucked vast distances, typically from California and Mexico in diesel-fueled refrigerated semi trailers. Seafood travels even farther, coming from places like Vietnam and Indonesia. The distribution costs associated with shipping food can add 25 percent to the final shelf price. The Urban Organics model reduces this expense, while subsequently slashing the carbon footprint of farming. “Almost all our customers do pickup,” Haberman told me. “We only own a few trucks.” His products are also immune to droughts, floods, and other global-warming weirdness. Outside (11 minutes)

Space Solar

China is taking its renewable energy push to new heights, with scientists revealing plans to build the first solar power station in space. A solar power station orbiting the earth at 36,000 kilometers could tap the energy of the sun’s rays without interference from the atmosphere, or seasonal and night-time loss of sunlight, Chinese media reported. It could reliably supply energy 99 per cent of the time, at six-times the intensity of solar farms on earth. Chinese scientists first plan to build and launch small to medium-sized solar power stations to be launched into the stratosphere to generate electricity, between 2021 and 2025. The Sydney Morning Herald (6 minutes)

Human Capitalism

Andrew Yang believes our economic system must shift to focus on bettering the lot of the average person. Instead of having our humanity subverted to serve the marketplace, capitalism has to be made to serve human ends and goals. Human Capitalism would have a few core tenets: 1) Humanity is more important than money. 2) The unit of an economy is each person, not each dollar. 3) Markets exist to serve our common goals and values. In addition to GDP and job statistics, the government could adopt measurements like: Average physical fitness and mental health; Quality of infrastructure; Proportion of the elderly in quality care; Marriage rates and success; Deaths of despair / substance abuse; Global temperature variance and sea levels; Re-acclimation of incarcerated individuals and rates of criminality; Artistic and cultural vibrancy; Dynamism and mobility; Social and economic equity; Civic engagement; Cybersecurity; Responsiveness and evolution of government. This could be tied into a Digital Social Credit system, in which people who help move society in a particular direction might be rewarded. TED (7 minutes)

Dear White America

If you are white, and you are reading this letter, I ask that you don’t run to seek shelter from your own racism. Don’t hide from your responsibility. Rather, begin, right now, to practice being vulnerable. Being neither a “good” white person nor a liberal white person will get you off the proverbial hook. I consider myself to be a decent human being. Yet, I’m sexist. Take another deep breath. It is painful to let go of your “white innocence,” to use this letter as a mirror, one that refuses to show you what you want to see, one that demands that you look at the lies that you tell yourself so that you don’t feel the weight of responsibility for those who live under the yoke of whiteness, your whiteness. This letter is not asking you to feel bad about yourself, to wallow in guilt. That is too easy. I’m asking for you to tarry, to linger, with the ways in which you perpetuate a racist society, the ways in which you are racist. New York Times (13 minutes)

Book Heaven

Anybody else out there a book and architecture fan? If so, welcome to Book Heaven. Helsinki Central Library Oodi is a living meeting place at Kansalaistori square, right at the heart of Helsinki. Click through the gallery to see this beautiful space. Architecture Daily (7 minutes)

From the Community

So excited that my friends Stephanie Cordes and Eric Stephenson got hitched! They met in the New York office of the Cordes Foundation, a family foundation of which they are chairs, that focuses on social entrepreneurship, impact investing and the economic advancement of women. Looking forward to their lifetime of creating impact together.

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 Tuomas Uusheimo.

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Weekend Wisdom

Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.James Baldwin