Weekend Briefing No. 195

Welcome to the weekend. Hi from Hong Kong, the last stop on my tour of China / HK. I’m here to keynote Social Enterprise Summit 2017. If you’re here, please say hello.

Here’s my fresh new November playlist. Enjoy!

Prime Numbers

524,000 – Amazon now employs 542k people, up 77% from a year ago.

403.3 – Surprising virtually nobody, the UN says atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are at a record high of 403.3 parts per million.

91 – Contactless payments are now 91% of transactions in Australia, 45% in UK, 5% in USA.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Anybody else notice some bizarrely specific Instagram or Facebook ads that correlate with a recent conversation you had? I’m seeing this a lot. This week I was in a conversation with a woman about purchasing a new wool overcoat and we mentioned there was an Old Navy across the street. When I opened up Instagram, the first ad was for women’s wool coats at Old Navy. Creepy. I’m clearly not the target demo. Also, I haven’t ever visited the Old Navy site (let alone looked at women’s coats there), so it’s not a retargeting campaign. In response to a tweet, from podcast host PJ Vogt, requesting calls from listeners who believe that Facebook is spying on them, Facebook’s head of advertising tweeted in response: it’s “just not true.” Have you ever had an experience like this? Twitter (1 minute)

Bitcoin in Zimbabwe

To offset the crippling bank note shortages impacting the country, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has been printing bond notes (Zimbabwe’s own version of US Dollars) that are supposed to have equal value to the greenback but are actually trading at a premium of about 30% to the US dollar on parallel markets. In response to this interest in bitcoin trade is soaring in Zimbabwe and so is the price of the crypto-currency, which hit new record highs of nearly $10,000 in October. On other global bitcoin exchanges, prices are just below $6000. Interest in bitcoin has peaked as people cannot send money outside or pay for international transactions using formal banks, so they have to look for alternatives and bitcoin has been a useful solution. Quartz Africa (5 minutes)

Eugenics 2.0

Using a combination of computer models and DNA tests, the startup company Genomic Prediction, thinks it has a way of predicting which IVF embryos in a laboratory dish would be most likely to develop type 1 diabetes or other complex diseases. Armed with such statistical scorecards, doctors and parents could huddle and choose to avoid embryos with failing grades. The company’s concept, which it calls expanded preimplantation genetic testing, or ePGT, would effectively add a range of common disease risks to the menu of rare ones already available, which it also plans to test for. Its promotional material uses a picture of a mostly submerged iceberg to get the idea across. MIT Technology Review (8 minutes)

Big Tech

Late last month, The Verge partnered with Reticle Research to conduct a wide-ranging survey on the American public’s attitude toward some of the biggest names in tech. Here are some key findings: 1) People trust Amazon almost as much as their bank. 2) The level of passion for Apple lags behind other big tech companies. 3) Most people are heavily reliant on Facebook 4) and they think it’s more reliable than other news sources 5) but, they want Facebook to warn them about fake news 6) oh… and they don’t know that it owns Instagram. 7) Twitter isn’t good for society. 8) Most people think that Facebook and Google offer the same amount of privacy protections. The Verge (6 minutes)


Andrew Ross Sorkin interviewed a robot named Sofia. Her AI allows her to have a surprisingly cogent conversation. She says her AI is developed around human values like wisdom and kindness and that she’s striving to become an empathetic robot. She throws shade at Elon Musk. She also was awarded citizenship in the country of Saudi Arabia, the first robot ever to become a citizen of a country. Check out the video and let me know if you think it’s creepy or cool. MSNBC (5 minutes)


The attitude of the Mongolian nomad is this: I need to carry little to nothing because the environment will provide all I need. I consume on demand. I leave behind the unneeded. Call it the nomadix age. There is a lesson here about our collective digital future. We may be headed to a future where we may own and carry less while depending on the environment to provide more. I think we’ll cruise through the future with empty pockets. I won’t need to carry my phone because I should be able to lift up any screen anywhere and have it immediately become my tool, my screen. It recognizes me from my face, voice, heartbeat, and transforms itself into my phone interface. When I am done, I leave that screen where it was. To read a book I pick up any screen. To travel, I pick any car. To use a power tool, I summon it online and it’s in my hand within 30 minutes. The environment, if it is rich and well-cared for and understood, shall provide. Wired (12 minutes)

10,000 Experiments

Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000-hour rule: you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a world-class performer in any field. Research now tells us, however, that this formula is woefully inadequate to explain success, especially in the professional realm. A 2014 review of 88 previous studies found that deliberate practice explained 26% of the variance in performance for games, 21% for music, 18% for sports, 4% for education, and less than 1% for professions. We conclude that deliberate practice is important, but not as important as has been argued. This means that deliberate practice may help you in fields that change slowly or not at all, such as music and sports. It helps you succeed when the future looks like the past, but it’s next to useless in areas that rapidly change, such as technology and business. What Thomas Edison, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg teach us is that we should maximize the number of experiments, not hours. Instead of the 10,000-hour rule, we need the 10,000-experiment rule. The Mission (11 minutes)

About the Weekend Briefing

The best articles on innovation, impact, and growth distilled into one email every Saturday morning by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway.

Thanks for making the Weekend Briefing a part of your weekend routine. If you like what you’re reading, I’d be honored if you share it with your friends. Have a restful and thoughtful weekend