Weekend Briefing No. 281

Welcome to the weekend. Hello from Cherokee Lake in Tennessee. I’m enjoying time with my family. I hope wherever you are, you are finding some time to enjoy this summer weekend with friends and family.  

Prime Numbers

68,500,000 – Clean-energy resources supplied more of America’s electricity than coal for the first time ever in April. Hydroelectric dams, solar panels and wind turbines generated almost 68.5 million megawatt-hours of power in April, eclipsing the 60 million that coal produced that month.

100 – A Japanese company charges its staff $100 an hour to use conference rooms

21.6 Wasted food accounts for 21.6% of discarded solid waste and 68% of discarded food is edible

Young & Innovative

Every year MIT Technology Review comes up with a list of 35 Innovators under 35. This list gives me a ton of optimism and also reminds me how little I’ve accomplished…. Haha. Here are my favorites: (1) Ritu Raman developed inchworm-size robots made partly of biological tissue and muscle. (2) Isaac Sesi created an affordable fix for one of the most vexing problems for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. (3) Azalia Mirhoseini taught an AI to design AI chips. (4) Tim Ellis Developed a massive 3D metal printer—for building an entire rocket. MIT Technology Review (27 minutes)

Rise of the Robots

Increasing automation will boost economic growth, however “each new industrial robot wipes out 1.6 manufacturing jobs”, the firm said, with the least-skilled regions being more affected. Regions where more people have lower skills, which tend to have weaker economies and higher unemployment rates anyway, are much more vulnerable to the loss of jobs due to robots. Moreover, workers who move out of manufacturing, tend to get new jobs in transport, construction, maintenance, and office and administration work – which in turn are vulnerable to automation, according to the firm. On average, each additional robot installed in those lower-skilled regions could lead to nearly twice as many job losses as those in higher-skilled regions of the same country, exacerbating economic inequality and political polarization, which is growing already, The more repetitive the job, the greater the risk of its being wiped out. Jobs which require more compassion, creativity or social intelligence are more likely to continue to be carried out by humans for decades to come. BBC (6 minutes)

Gig Employees

Deliv, a Menlo Park delivery startup, just reclassified its drivers from contractors to employees. It’s a rare move by a gig economy company to change its employment model. And it’s sure to be closely watched as California adjusts to last year’s groundbreaking state Supreme Court ruling called Dynamex that makes it harder for companies to claim that workers are independent contractors, and considers legislation that could force other companies to change how they classify their workers. Deliv appears to be the first prominent California gig company to change its business model and it won’t be the last. Consider whether the contractors are doing work central to their business — a core tenet of the Dynamex decision. If so, it looks like you’ll have to classify them as employees or face consequences. If you want discuss the implications of this change for your company, just reply to this email and we can help you figure it out. San Francisco Chronicle (7 minutes)

Attention Diet

In the 20th century, life became sedentary and lazy. People sat around watching TV, sat around the office all day pushing papers, and sat around in cars slurping on Big Gulps. As a result, a public health crisis emerged–our bodies became fragile and weak.  As a response, in the 1980s, a fitness and nutrition culture emerged to counteract these trends. Perhaps the same thing is happening in the 21st century, except instead of our bodies becoming weak and lazy, it’s our minds. Social media, sensationalized news, and constant distractions are the McDonald’s and Skittles of our mental health. Precisely as we need nutritional diets for our physical challenges, we need also to develop a culture around mental fitness and nutrition for our mental/emotional challenges. Mark Manson (27 minutes)

Transatlantic

The laying of the cable for the transatlantic telegraph is an underrated achievement. When the ship sailed from the Medway on June 24, 1865, she carried seven thousand tons of cable, eight thousand tons of coal, and provisions for five hundred men.  Since this was before the days of refrigeration, the Transatlantic also became a seagoing farm. Her passenger list included one cow, a dozen oxen, twenty pigs, one hundred twenty sheep. and a whole poultry-yard of fowl. To provide storage space for the huge coils of wire, three great tanks were carved into the heart of the ship.  The drums, sheaves, and dynamo-meters of the laying mechanism occupied a large part of the stem decking, and one funnel with its associated boilers had been removed to give additional storage space. Marginal Revolution (2 minutes)

Hack Back

Lawmakers in Congress have introduced tech legislation that would give victims of a cyber attack the chance to track and hack their suspected hack-attacker. An existing US law prohibits this kind of pursuit, which is known as “hacking back.” The Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act, (ACDC), has been proposed time and time again throughout the years (most recently in 2017). The bill aims to allow victims to hunt down attackers by hacking different organization systems that they suspect the hackers used to launch the offensive. As of now only the FBI and a few other government agencies have the jurisdiction to hunt down suspected hackers. But right now, supporters of the bill say, the feds are exhausted due to dealing with an endless number of cyber attacks — like the ransomware that has shocked computer systems in cities like Atlanta and Baltimore — and they need help. Critics are wary that the proposition is a “ Highway to Hell”  and view this decision as a very bad idea. A reasonable conclusion since we know that vigilante justice doesn’t usually work out the way it does in the movies. The Hustle (2 minutes)

10 Levels

Since it’s a summer Saturday and I’m sitting by the lake, I thought I’d share this fun video of a jazz guitarist playing Summertime by Gershwin at ten levels of complexity. Enjoy. YouTube (4 minutes)

Bookshelf

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan. Eleven-year-old George Washington Black—or Wash—a field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is initially terrified when he is chosen as the manservant of his master’s brother. To his surprise, however, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist. Soon Wash is initiated into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning, and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, they must abandon everything and flee together. Over the course of their travels, what brings Wash and Christopher together will ultimately tear them apart, propelling Wash ever farther across the globe in search of his true self. Spanning the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, London to Morocco, Washington Black is a story of self-invention and betrayal, of love and redemption, and of a world destroyed and made whole again. Amazon

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 Víctor Vázquez.

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Weekend Wisdom

The best ideas start as conversations.Jony Ive