Weekend Briefing No. 288

Welcome to the Weekend.

Prime Numbers

9 Healthcare costs in the US have increased by 9X since 1960. In that same period the cost of televisions have been cut in half.

4.8 MM Every minute giphy serves up 4.8MM gifs.

4 Parents from the richest fifth of households are 4 times more likely to spending on extra-curricular activities and private tutoring on their children than those in the poorest fifth of households, new analysis by the Sutton Trust reveals.

CRISPR & Inequality

There is general agreement among the scientists on the cutting edge of genetic editing, that, when it’s safe and practical, heritable edits ought to be used to fix bad single-gene mutations, such as Huntington’s disease and sickle-cell anemia. But they recoil at the idea of using gene editing for human enhancements, such as trying to give our kids more muscle mass, or height, or perhaps someday higher I.Q.’s and cognitive skills. Should rich people be allowed to buy the best genes they can afford? That could lead to the dystopia described in Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World, in which the modification of embryos produces a caste system ranging from intelligence-enhanced leaders to stunted menial laborers. Our world is already suffering from widening gaps in wealth and opportunity, and a free market for genetic enhancements could produce a quantum leap in these inequalities and also, literally, encode them permanently. In a world in which there are people who don’t get access to eyeglasses. “it’s hard to imagine how we will find a way to have equal access to gene enhancements. Think of what that will do to our species. Air Mail (9 minutes)

Mil (lonely) als

Today, members of the Millennial generation are ages 23 to 38. This ought to be prime years of careers taking off and starting families, before joints really begin to ache. Yet as a recent poll and some corresponding research indicate, there’s something missing for many in this generation: companionship. A recent poll from YouGov, a polling firm and market research company, found that 30 percent of millennials say they feel lonely. This is the highest percentage of all the generations surveyed. Furthermore, 22 percent of millennials in the poll said they had zero friends. Twenty-seven percent said they had “no close friends,” 30 percent said they have “no best friends,” and 25 percent said they have no acquaintances. Vox (6 minutes)

On Beeing

Almond trees take up a million acres of land in the state’s central Central Valley region. When the petals fall off, they carpet the road and create this sweet smell. To create a single almond, a blossom needs as many as a dozen bee visits, which means roughly 80,000 bees are required to pollinate an acre of almonds. Every winter, beekeepers from every corner of the United States descend on California to pollinate almonds. Almonds have a window of about two weeks for pollination to occur. Otherwise, the blossoms won’t turn into fruit. The demand is so high it takes upwards of two million hives, almost every commercial beehive in the country to do the job. This is the largest managed pollination event on earth. Long time readers know I love bees. This podcast is a great look at their role in the economy. 99 Percent Invisible (28 minutes)

Lance Armstrong’s Next Move

A podcast might seem an unlikely vehicle for a business comeback, especially since Armstrong himself is an amateurish broadcaster, sometimes forgetting or badly mispronouncing the names of riders and French towns, sometimes going off on wild tangents. But it’s 2019, and podcasts are an increasingly influential medium, minting celebrities, capturing a growing share of the radio audience. In 2016, with the trial looming, Armstrong devised an ambitious plan to un-disgrace himself. Banned from professional cycling races, he created and started riding in his own unsanctioned cycling events. Unable to land a broadcasting gig, he started a podcast and covered the Tour de France himself. Dropped by the sponsors who’d paid him about $20 million a year to promote their wares—and then sued him for fraud—he began selling his own cycling gear under a new brand, Wedu. Amazingly, given the depth of Armstrong’s disgrace, his plan seems to be working. His podcast, The Move, was near the top of Apple’s podcast charts during the Tour de France in July. It was No. 3 among sports shows as of July 19, just ahead of Bill Simmons’s show and all of ESPN’s podcasts. Bloomberg (14 minutes)

How to Disagree

The internet has turned into an outrage machine. If we’re all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it well. What does it mean to disagree well? Here’s an attempt at a disagreement hierarchy: DH0 – Name-calling. DH1 – Ad Hominem. DH2 – Responding to tone. DH3 – Contradiction. In this stage we finally get responses to what was said, rather than how or by whom. The lowest form of response to an argument is simply to state the opposing case, with little or no supporting evidence. DH4 – Counterargument. Counterargument is contradiction plus reasoning and/or evidence. When aimed squarely at the original argument, it can be convincing. But, unfortunately, it’s common for counterarguments to be aimed at something slightly different. DH5 – Refutation. To refute someone, you probably have to quote them. You have to find a “smoking gun,” a passage in whatever you disagree with that you feel is mistaken, and then explain why it’s mistaken. DH6 – Refuting the central point. Truly refuting something requires one to refute its central point, or at least one of them. And that means one has to commit explicitly to what the central point is. So, a truly effective refutation would look like: The author’s main point seems to be x. As he says: <quotation> But this is wrong for the following reasons… Paul Graham (11 minutes)

Potty Mouth

Recycled wastewater is the fastest-growing area in the water industry. Why? Because not every city has an ocean, not everyone has good lakes and rivers, but everybody’s got sewage. Daily, an Orange County, CA waste water treatment plant pumps out 100 million gallons of drinking water — enough to supply 850,000 county residents — which makes this the largest “toilet-to-tap” facility on the planet. The sewage moves through eight stages of filtration, including a gravel-sand filter and a bacterial “bioscrubbing” process used in Israeli plants. Orange County also has a “microfiltration” stage, in which the water is sucked through thousands of tiny porous straws. In the final and most critical stage, the water is forced through a massive hive of cylinders containing the RO membranes. This Orange County facility is setting a precedent for the use of sewage to produce drinking water every bit as pure as the water that comes from desalination. This process is cheap compared to desalination — about half the cost. Sewage has much lower salinity than seawater, which makes it easier to process. TED (8 minutes)

Contract Negotiation for Startups

As a lawyer who works with startups, I spend a lot of my days negotiating contracts. As a startup, negotiating is tough because you are not yet established or trusted in the marketplace, and when you’re negotiating with bigger companies you lack the leverage.  When a customer buys a product from your company, they are taking on risk: risk that your startup may fail, leaving them with an unsupported product; risk that your product won’t work as advertised or that it will mismanage private data, open up security holes, infringe on IP, or cause collateral damage to other critical business systems; risk that your company won’t patch bugs on time or respond to support calls when issues arise; and so on. With all these risks, many founders and startups make the mistake of being overly accommodating during initial contract negotiations. This article, based on interviews with lawyers, founders, and CROs is a pretty good summary of the 16 of the most important sales contract clauses and how to approach each. A16Z (21 minutes)


Unshakeable by Tony Robbins. After interviewing fifty of the world’s greatest financial minds and penning the #1 New York Times bestseller Money: Master the Game, Tony Robbins returns with a step-by-step playbook, taking you on a journey to transform your financial life and accelerate your path to financial freedom. No matter your salary, your stage of life, or when you started, this book will provide the tools to help you achieve your financial goals more rapidly than you ever thought possible. 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 Matthew T Rader.

Should We Work Together?

This newsletter is my passion project. I hope it helps you gain deeper insight and equips you to create meaningful impact in the world. Many readers have asked about how we can work together. I run a law firm for startups. We try to keep it simple by structuring our engagements in two ways: (1) On-Demand Counsel – Flat fee, per project engagements. No billable hour means no surprise legal bills. (2) General Counsel – A simple monthly fee for all your day-to-day legal needs. It’s like getting a subscription to your own general counsel. If you’re interested, let’s jump on a call to see if you’re a good fit for the firm. Click here to schedule a call.   

Weekend Wisdom

Change breaks the brittle. Jan Houtema