Weekend Briefing No. 287

Welcome to the weekend. Hi from Jackson Hole, I’m taking the week to hike and climb in the Grant Tetons.

Prime Numbers

2.9 MM –The Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor used this year’s Easter donations to wipe out $2.9 million in medical debt for 2,120 people in Southeast Michigan.

4.96 The average TripAdvisor rating for stores, eateries and hotels in Mecca is a heavenly 4.96 out of 5, compared to an average 3.96 stars among the 200 best tourist destinations in Europe.

25 25% of the world’s population across 17 countries are living in regions of extremely high water stress, a measure of the level of competition over water resources, a new report reveals.

AI + Africa

Moustapha Cisse left Senegal a decade ago to study artificial intelligence, and now he believes the technology can change Africa for the better. Cisse, 34, is leading Google’s AI research center in Accra, Ghana, He originally left for Europe because he couldn’t find a single program in Africa to study machine learning. But in 2018, he recruited a slate of top-tier researchers and started an AI master’s degree program at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Kigali, Rwanda with funding from Facebook and Google. His program began teaching its first 30 students in September; there are plans to expand to 100 students next year, with an additional location in Accra. For Cisse, his graduates represent the future of African computing, uniquely equipped to solve the toughest challenges facing the continent — as well as bringing diversity to a field concentrated in Europe, North America, and Asia. TIME (16 minutes)

China + AI + Education

China has started a grand experiment in AI education. It could reshape how the world learns. In recent years, the country has rushed to pursue “intelligent education.” Now it’s billion-dollar Ed-tech companies are planning to export their vision overseas. Experts agree AI will be important in 21st-century education—but how? While academics have puzzled over best practices, China hasn’t waited around. In the last few years, the country’s investment in AI-enabled teaching and learning has exploded. Tech giants, startups, and education incumbents have all jumped in. Tens of millions of students now use some form of AI to learn—whether through extracurricular tutoring programs like Squirrel’s, through digital learning platforms like 17ZuoYe, or even in their main classrooms. It’s the world’s biggest experiment on AI in education, and no one can predict the outcome. MIT Technology Review (18 minutes)

LSAT

This two-episode look at the entrance exam for law school called the LSAT is surprisingly interesting. Malcolm challenges his assistant Camille to the Law School Admissions Test. He gets halfway through, panics, runs out of time, and wonders: why does the legal world want him to rush? The upshot is that the test optimizes for quick thinkers not deep thinkers – the hare not the tortoise. They get entrance into the best law schools and are on the conveyer belt to the top law firms. The irony is that – for most of the practice of law – thoroughness not speed is the recipe for success. Further research shows that pedigree of law school isn’t either.  You know what is? Surprisingly, the single biggest indicator is whether the lawyer excels relative to her peers is if she’s had blue collar experience. As a lawyer who didn’t go to a top ranked law school and spent more than a decade of my life mowing lawns, doing construction, and working in factories, I tend to agree! Ha Revisionist History (80 minutes)

Fortnite World Cup

The Fortnite World Cup was arguably one of the most open and meritocratic sporting events of any type ever held; every player of the game could enter and dream of winning. The eventual winner, Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, is a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania, albeit one with a track record of previous success in tournaments who signed to esports team Sentinels earlier this year. The structure of the tournament, which didn’t privilege professional players in any way beyond their ability to spend more time training, is a big deal in attracting interest, but it’s only one factor in the success of Fortnite as an esport. The game has, by accident or by design, hit upon a formula that combines three essential things: it has extraordinarily broad appeal as a casual hobby, it has the right ingredients for high-level competitive play, and it’s exciting to watch as a spectator. Games Industry (7 minutes)

Pattern

Gin Lane, the incredibly successful agency that has designed and marketed brands like Sweetgreen, Hims, Harry’s and Recess is closing up shop. The team behind some of the biggest Millennial brands is restarting as a company called Pattern. Instead of building brands for someone else, they are now building their own brands based around the concept of “bringing back enjoyment”. In this state of chronic burnout, our generation has lost the ability to find enjoyment in everyday moments — the simple pleasure of doing something (or even nothing) for the joy of it, rather than the end result of improving oneself. Should be interesting to see what comes out of this. Medium (6 minutes)

Turning 40

Age 40 still feels pivotal. “The 40s are when you become who you are,” a British author in his 70s says, adding ominously, “And if you don’t know by your 40s, you never will.” Indeed, modern neuroscience and psychology confirm what Aristotle said more than 2,000 years ago when he described men in their “primes” as having “neither that excess of confidence which amounts to rashness, nor too much timidity, but the right amount of each. They neither trust everybody nor distrust everybody, but judge people correctly.” I agree. We’ve actually managed to learn and grow a bit. We see the hidden costs of things. Our parents have stopped trying to change us. We can tell when something is ridiculous. And other minds are finally less opaque. The seminal journey of the 40s is from “everyone hates me” to “they don’t really care.” I’m months away from turning 40… and I am really looking forward to it. My hope is that the energy + experience will make it an impactful decade. New York Times (12 minutes)

Dealing with Rejection

We all get rejected at work, whether it’s having our suggestions shot down, being denied for a promotion or getting fired from a job. It hurts — and it’s not just a metaphor. Neuroscientists have scanned the brains of people when they experience rejection. The physiological response looks fairly similar to processing physical pain. Rejection often happens because of a lack of fit in the relationship: Your values were a mismatch for that interviewer, your skills didn’t quite suit that job, your ratty conference T-shirts failed to overlap with the taste of your decreasingly significant other. New research reveals that when people are in the habit of blaming setbacks on relationships instead of only on the individuals involved, they’re less likely to give up — and more motivated to get better. New York Times (7 minutes)

Bookshelf

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. The most famous of all teachers of success spent a fortune and the better part of a lifetime of effort to produce the Law of Success philosophy that forms the basis of his books and that is so powerfully summarized and explained for the general public in this book. In Think and Grow Rich, Hill draws on stories of Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and other millionaires of his generation to illustrate his principles. This book will teach you the secrets that could bring you a fortune. It will show you not only what to do but how to do it. Once you learn and apply the simple, basic techniques revealed here, you will have mastered the secret of true and lasting success. Money and material things are essential for freedom of body and mind, but there are some who will feel that the greatest of all riches can be evaluated only in terms of lasting friendships, loving family relationships, understanding between business associates, and introspective harmony which brings one true peace of mind! All who read, understand, and apply this philosophy will be better prepared to attract and enjoy these spiritual values. Amazon

Feedback Loop

Another response to the story on immigrant founders from 2 weeks ago (and in reaction to the question posed by a reader last week):

I got really curious & have searched for the full report but could not found it for current year. The previous full report by same institute has the data and finer analysis of data reveals interesting pattern. The current valuation shared by institute for immigrant (new American companies) is $6 Trillion and is comparable to previous report of $5.7 Trillion. So, data should be largely the same. Their claim is that immigration adds $6 Trillion in economy, and so we should not restrict “any” types of immigration. Let’s see what data reveals:

1. Counting companies like IBM , Dupont or AT&T and Verizon (founded by Bell) , General Electric (Thomas Edison) in this list is extremely misleading. These companies were founded in old economy, when immigration to US (and worldwide) was a different phenomenon. And including them now, almost make this claim comical. Also, these companies are long being run by “American executives (mostly white men)” so including them now in immigrant founded companies sounds unfair.

2. I personally have issues with including Apple as company founded by immigrant son , since Steve Jobs was not raised by his biological father. Excluding just Apple from valuation, will make these valuation drop by $1 Trillion.

3. The focus of immigration debate is around illegal crossings and from third world countries. When you look at immigration country for most of these founders or their parents its western Europe. (Ireland, England or Germany) . Also lot more from Canada (seriously Canadians counted as immigrants?? ) and Sweden. Again, this flies in the face. In fact Trump has said, let there be immigrants from Norway. Maybe this report support that narrative.

4. I looked for Immigrant founders which are from Third world countries and found only 4. Sun Micro (India), Yahoo(Taiwan), Wellcare (Zambia), Gen Cable (Turkey). That means less than 1% of Fortune 500 companies are founded by immigrants or their kids from third world country. These are the people who are faces of immigration debate and while well intentional , this report is misleading or misrepresenting the narrative.

5. One could even argue that India or China or Turkey are still “better off” countries. (Zambian founders were also Indian.) No country from Latin America featured here nor could come visibly across any founders who are hispanics or african americans.

As an immigrant I do take pride in such claims but as a scientist , I also can’t ignore the truth. I just went looking for answers based on one reader’s question and in the end, original claim looks very disingenuous to me. The immigration debate should not be all good vs all bad but there should be room for 50 shades of grey of immigration types (legal vs illegal, merit vs family etc.) – Kunal Sawarkar

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 Matt Ragland.

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Weekend Wisdom

Gosh! –Napoleon Dynamite