Weekend Briefing No. 205

Welcome to the holiday weekend. I wanted to start by saying a big thanks to you. I did something different in last week’s briefing, it was purely focused on personal growth. It seemed to resonate with the community because I had an overwhelming (positive) response. See the From the Community section below for more. Thanks, and keep that feedback coming!

Prime Numbers

300,000,000 – Apple App Store customers around the world made apps and games a bigger part of their holiday season in 2017 than ever before, culminating in $300 million in purchases made on New Year’s Day 2018.

25 – Despite the hundreds of millions of smartphones and tablets now in U.S. pockets and on bedside tables, there were a billion less devices plugged in every month in 2017 than there were in 2013. The result for energy is striking. There has been a 25 percent reduction in total energy consumption by electronics.

1 – Somebody’s doing something right on the device team at Google. Tens of millions of all Google devices for the home were sold in 2017, the blog said, and at least one Google Home device has been sold every second since the Home Mini began to ship a few months ago, the company said. That’s roughly 6.3 million Home smart speakers sold in 2017, and about 6.7 million to date.

The Best Year Ever

After the year we just had, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world is going to Hell in a handbasket. Given the general outrage at everything, the rising risk of nuclear war with North Korea, the uncovering of sexual assault / harassment in many industries, the paralysis in Congress, warfare in Yemen and Syria, atrocities in Myanmar and an…. umm… unconventional (is that the word?) president. But 2017 was actually the best year in human history. A smaller share of the world’s people were hungry, impoverished or illiterate than at any time before. A smaller proportion of children died than ever before. The proportion disfigured by leprosy, blinded by diseases like trachoma or suffering from other ailments also fell. Every day, the number of people around the world living in extreme poverty (less than about $2 a day) goes down by 217,000. Every day, 325,000 more people gain access to electricity. And 300,000 more gain access to clean drinking water. Just since 1990, the lives of more than 100 million children have been saved by vaccinations, diarrhea treatment, breast-feeding promotion and other simple steps. So, on this Saturday morning, take a moment to let this sink in and maybe even smile. (It’s good for you!). New York Times (7 minutes)

Proof of Impact

Impact measurement has always been challenging. Could blockchain technology come to the rescue? The Ixo Foundation, based in South Africa, believes so. It is developing a “proof of impact” protocol allowing data about projects–for example, that a child has been vaccinated or that a tree has been planted–to be recorded on a distributed ledger (a blockchain). This enables the claim of impact to be verified as legitimate and for funders thousands of miles of away to see that their money has been well spent. It also creates a new asset class, a cryptographic token that’s issued as the claim is authenticated, that could become the basis for a more organized, regulated form of investing. Funders can fund an end-organization [that delivers a service] but fundamentally what they are buying is proof of the impact: a new digital asset that creates an opportunity for a new economy. Fast Company (4 minutes)


Shares in Eastman Kodak Co. more than doubled after the former camera and film heavyweight said it would launch the Kodakcoin, a photocentric cryptocurrency to empower photographers and agencies to take greater control in image rights management. Kodak, whose name was once synonymous with photographic film, emerged from bankruptcy in 2013 after selling off most of its patents to companies including Apple and Microsoft. Kodak now focuses on digital photography and printing, as well as licensing agreements. This is an interesting idea and could be valuable for photographers to earn revenue streams off their photos.  It could also be a sign that everybody is trying to get into the crypto world. Bloomberg (2 minutes)

Terminator Cattle

Gene-editing technology, CRISPR, has big potential in farm animals. It has been used to create pigs immune to viruses and sheep whose wool grows longer. This week, after a year of trying, Alison Van Eenennaam, an Australian geneticist at the University of California, Davis, just used the CRISPR to add a gene called SRY to some bovine skin cells. And SRY is no ordinary bit of DNA. All on its own, the presence of SRY can make a female turn out to be essentially male—with bigger muscles, a penis, and testicles (although unable to make sperm). These are called “Terminator Cattle”. Now, in the project she calls “Boys Only,” she aims to create a bull that will father only male offspring: either normal bull calves or ones with two X chromosomes but also the male-making SRY. No females at all. MIT Technology Review (10 minutes)

Partying is So Gen X

“I feel like we don’t party as much. People stay in more often. My generation lost interest in socializing in person—they don’t have physical get-togethers, they just text together, and they can just stay at home,” says Kevin a 17-year old guy. Kevin is onto something. For example, iGen teens—those who were born in 1995 and later, grew up with cell phones, had an Instagram page before they started high school, and do not remember a time before the internet—spend less time at parties than any previous generation. The trends are similar for college students, who are asked how many hours a week they spent at parties during their senior year in high school. In 2016, they said two hours a week—only a third of the time GenX students spent at parties in 1987. The number of teens who get together with their friends every day has been cut in half in just fifteen years, with especially steep declines recently. College students in 2016 (vs. the late 1980s) spent four fewer hours a week socializing with their friends and three fewer hours a week partying—so seven hours a week less on in-person social interaction. That means iGen’ers were seeing their friends in person an hour less a day than GenX’ers and early Millennials did. They are replacing human time with screen time. Wired (8 minutes)

The Slavery of Yes

Last week, I featured a piece on the power of saying no, here’s another variation on the theme. All of us regularly say yes unthinkingly, or out of vague attraction, or out of greed or vanity. Because we can’t say no—because we might miss out on something if we did. We think “yes” will let us accomplish more, will give us more of what we want, when in reality it prevents exactly what we seek. All of us waste precious life doing things we don’t like, to prove ourselves to people we don’t respect, and to get things we don’t want. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said that “wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” Freedom is the most important thing. We’re born with it, and yet many of us wake up one day surprised at the chains we wear. The reason? Because if you can’t say no, you’re not powerful or free. You’re a slave. Thought Catalog (11 minutes)

What We Can’t Talk About

Because there’s a surplus of content but finite attention, people look for what gets them attention, outrage tends to be a strong magnet. Social media seems to be a constant stream of outrage. I for one am tired of it. If you like it… awesome, the world is your oyster now. But it doesn’t bode well for principled discourse and those of us that are humble truth seekers. What to do about it? Hunter Walk has some thoughts: 1) Be human. When someone says something disagreeable, offensive, or obnoxious, we tend to dehumanize them, that makes it easier to trash them. 2) We can disagree and be friends.  Yeah, it’s possible. We don’t have to be ideological perfect matches in order for me to work with you, respect you, or be interested in your ideas. 3) Do the work to understand why you might be wrong. It’s so healthy to ask someone why they believe what they do – not because you’re looking for a way to attack them to win the argument but because you want to inhabit their eyes for a moment. Present your point of view and ask them where they believe you’re wrong or why they feel differently. Never assume your truth is an unqualified truth. Hunter Walk (7 minutes)

From the Community

Kathy Calvin, President of the UN Foundation, just released a letter celebrating 20 years of the UN Foundation.

Also, I received a bunch of feedback on last week’s briefing, see below:

“Always good weekly newsletter by @kylewestaway – and this week especially so. Full of ideas and tools that may make 2018 a better year than last.” –Jeffrey Bradach on twitter

“My favorite Weekend Briefing for sure. Nice job. Happy 2018.” – Scott Curran

“Thanks Kyle. I’ve been reading these semi-regularly since we first connected around No. 138 and I always appreciate the chance to think more broadly about my impact, behavior, habits, etc. I’m especially intrigued by the Morning Office idea and I’ll be thinking about ways to implement that for myself and the people I work most closely with. The idea that we’re fighting the days battles before our eyes have adjusted for distance really resonates with me.” –Dan Stenson

“Great issue Kyle! Love your post on stacking habits. I purchased Momentum last year after reading that it had worked for you and it has been a game changer. Oh, how satisfying to tick a little green box!” – Alex Nichols

About the Weekend Briefing

A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society by Kyle Westaway – Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose.