Weekend Briefing No. 294

Welcome to the weekend. It’s that time of year when New York hosts UN General Assembly, and New Yorkers generally avoid midtown. The week was chocked full of events. It was great to see many of you at We the Future (my favorite event of UNGA week)!

On another note, as you may know we have a trip planned to South Africa in February 2020. We will explore Apartheid and learn how a wide range of cultural and business leaders address the seemingly intractable issues South Africa still faces today. We’ll be meeting with veterans of the anti-Apartheid movement, young entrepreneurs, key social and political leaders of all background who are committed to building a just society today.  We’ll enjoy unique access to historic sites in Johannesburg and Cape Town (one of my favorite cities in the world), off the beaten-path locations, world-class cuisine, wine and rich culture. We’ll engage with South African change agents in thought-provoking settings. We have a few slots open, if you are interested, click here to learn more and apply

Prime Numbers

200 – French unions have fought against extended opening hours for stores to guarantee time off for the workers. Retail chain Casino is now testing ways to have self-checkout available at all hours in 200 locations. (Short-sighted move on the union’s part if you ask me. Eventually the retail chains are going to perfect self-checkout and need way less workers.)

80 Smaller glaciers, like the ones in the Alps, are at unique risk of shrinking, and could lose 80 percent of ice by 2100. Switzerland has lost 15 percent of its glacial volume in the past 10 years alone.

23 – Here are 23 of the most influential photos from music

1619: Bad Blood

Civil Rights Act of 1964, which says that discriminating on the basis of race is unconstitutional. And more specifically, it says that the government can pull federal dollars from any facility or entity that does not comply with the law, and that includes hospitals. But the vast majority of hospitals do nothing. They don’t just suddenly desegregate, and it’s unclear when — or even if — they’re going to face any consequences at all for that. And this is where Medicare comes in, because Medicare is like a new pile of federal money that’s dangled in front of hospitals across the country. But in order to get that money, hospitals have to comply with federal law, like the Civil Rights Act. They would have to actually desegregate. And so Medicare passes, and what happens is within four months of implementation, nearly 3,000 hospitals desegregate. But of course, the health disparities between black Americans and white Americans persist to this day. Black women are three times more likely to die of causes related to pregnancy than white women. Black people with H.I.V. tend to get worse care than white people with the disease. One study found that black patients with diabetes did worse than white patients, even when they had the same doctor. Black Americans die at higher rates from many cancers that would have been treatable had they been caught earlier. 1619 (40 minutes)

A Nobel-Winning Economist Goes to Burning Man

Amid the desert orgies, Paul Romer investigates a provocative question: Is this bacchanal a model of urban planning? Mr. Romer came to the desert imagining himself as an objective outsider: de Tocqueville among the Burners. But Black Rock City started to rub off on him. Mr. Romer, who appreciates a bit of shock value, has been showing aerial images of the city in public talks about urban growth for several years. The world, he says, needs more “Burning Man urbanization.” By 2050, developing-world cities are projected to gain 2.3 billion people. Many of those people will move to makeshift settlements on the edge of existing cities, tripling the urbanized land area in the developing world. Mr. Romer’s answer is to do with this moment what Burning Man does every summer: Stake out the street grid; separate public from private space; and leave room for what’s to come. Then let the free market take over. No market mechanism can ever create the road network that connects everyone. The government must do that first. “It’s a metaphor for my sense of economics,” Mr. Romer said. “I picture an economist showing up at Burning Man and saying: ‘Oh, look! This is the miracle of the invisible hand. All of this stuff happens by self-interest, and it just magically appears.’ And there’s this huge amount of planning that actually is what’s required beneath it to make the order emerge.” New York Times (17 minutes)

Red Pulse

At midnight on Mars, the red planet’s magnetic field sometimes starts to pulsate in ways that have never before been observed. The cause is currently unknown. That’s just one of the stunning preliminary findings from NASA’s very first robotic geophysicist there, the InSight lander. Since touching down in November 2018, this spacecraft has been gathering intel to help scientists better understand our neighboring planet’s innards and evolution, such as taking the temperature of its upper crust, recording the sounds of alien quakes, and measuring the strength and direction of the planet’s magnetic field. In addition to the odd magnetic pulsations, the lander’s data show that the Martian crust is far more powerfully magnetic than scientists expected. What’s more, the lander has picked up on a very peculiar electrically conductive layer, about 2.5 miles thick, deep beneath the planet’s surface. It’s far too early to say with any certainty, but there is a chance that this layer could represent a global reservoir of liquid water. National Geographic (6 minutes)

Status Quo

Recently Doug McMillon, the Walmart chief executive, said the retailer will stop selling e-cigarettes in its more than 5,300 U.S. locations, displaying a tendency toward action that the company has typically lacked. The announcement supports the emerging narrative that Walmart’s 52-year-old CEO is unafraid to take stands on national hot-button issues. So far at least, McMillon’s outspokenness hasn’t jeopardized Walmart’s core business. E-cigs were a “relatively small category,” according to a Walmart spokesperson, and the stores continue to sell traditional cigarettes and all manner of hunting rifles. The sustainability push will save Walmart money in the long run. Still, McMillon’s higher profile may extract a price. His public appearances could start to draw protesters who disagree with his stances on guns, wages and other issues. Opponents of gun-control legislation have threatened to challenge Walmart’s new open-carry restrictions by provoking confrontations in stores. But as McMillon said when announcing the gun-policy changes, he’s ready for it: “The status quo is unacceptable.” Bloomberg (5 minutes)

Data Dignity

Jarod Lanier, the Silicon Valley maverick has a radical vision for how we can all earn money from our data told in 3 short video episodes: Episode 1 – The Great Data Robbery. You’ve been tricked into giving away your most valuable asset. Episode 2 – You Should Get Paid For Your Data. Your data makes the internet go round. Here’s a plan to get you compensated. Episode 3. Hope for the Internet Future. We can remake the internet into a force for good. New York Times (20 minutes) 


Stillness is that quiet moment when inspiration hits you. It’s that ability to step back and reflect. It’s what makes room for gratitude and happiness. It’s one of the most powerful forces on earth. We all need stillness, but those of us charging ahead with big plans and big dreams need it most of all. Still, the word “stillness” can feel vague or ephemeral. It doesn’t need to be. There are, in fact, concrete and actionable ways to bring it into your life. It doesn’t just happen. You have to put in the work. You have to follow the guidance of the masters. Ryan Holiday looked at not just Stoicism, but Buddhism, Confucianism, Epicureanism, Christianity, Hinduism, and countless other philosophical schools and religions, and he found that the one thing all these schools share is a pursuit of this inner peace—this stillness—and a belief that it’s the key to a happy and meaningful life. As a result, here are 28 proven exercises from across all the wisdom of the ancient world that will help you keep steady, disciplined, focused, at peace, and able to access your full capabilities at any time, in any place, despite any distraction and every difficulty. These steps will work… if you work them. Tim Ferriss (26 minutes)


Here are 3 counterintuitive ways to use Sunday to make your week better. (1) Develop a habit of gratitude. Assess what you are thankful for and be very intentional about showing gratitude to those in your life. (2) Short burst of work to start momentum for the week. Put 90 percent into things that matter most – family, faith, friends – but withhold 10 percent to get excited about what lies ahead. Put no more than an hour into cleaning out the inbox and strategizing about the week on Sunday night. (3) Imagine that the week gets blown up and disorganized. What is the one thing that is non-negotiable, that absolutely must be accomplished no matter what happens? In this way, by imagining a week disorganized, one is able to organize around preserving the one most important thing. Inc. (6 minutes)


How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and re-energizes the conversation about racism – and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At its core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes listeners through a widening circle of antiracist ideas – from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities – that will help listeners see all forms of racism clearly, understand their poisonous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves. Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society. 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 Denys Nevozhai.

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Weekend Wisdom

I opened a Pandora box and released a Frankenstein monster. Wally Conron, creator of the labradoodle dog breed, which he considers his biggest regret in life.