Weekend Briefing No. 222

Welcome to the weekend. I’m writing today poolside at the Opportunity Collaboration USA. I’m feeling grateful for and inspired by the work all my new (and old) friends are doing to alleviate poverty.

Prime Numbers

176 MM – After 15 years of declining revenue, the music industry has seen 3 consecutive years of growth driven by the adoption of streaming services. Streaming revenues grew 41.1% to become largest revenue source, driven by 176 million users of paid subscription accounts.

10.3 MM – According to a new report, more than 500,000 jobs in the renewable energy were created in 2017, bringing the overall total to 10.3 million.

5 – California’s gross domestic product rose by $127 billion, surpassing the GDP of the United Kingdom to become the world’s fifth largest economy.

Buffett on Crypto

Warren Buffett sees crypto assets like a baseball trading card or some other form of collectible. He says, “if you buy something like bitcoin or some cryptocurrency, you don’t really have anything that has produced anything.” Fred Wilson disagrees. They are the fuel that powers a new form of technology infrastructure that is being built on top of the foundational internet protocols. Crypto-assets fundamentally produce decentralized infrastructure. Bitcoin has produced a transaction processing infrastructure that looks a lot like Amazon Web Services (something I am sure Buffett would agree is extremely valuable). Ethereum has produced a similar transaction processing infrastructure which is also able to run smart contracts. I believe smart contracts are the most important innovation we have yet seen in crypto. AVC (7 minutes)


In our increasingly automated economy, your imagination will increasingly matter. Here is a process for making use of your imagination and generating new ideas. 1) Overload is the enemy of imagination. “Overload” is a mindstate where you have too much information coming at you to think creatively. 2) Ideas are, at their root, combinatorial. The capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships between disparate elements. 3) Ideas happen when you aren’t thinking. Voluntary abstention from conscious thought on any problem may, itself, take two forms: the period of abstention may be spent either in conscious mental work on other problems, or in a relaxation from all conscious mental work. Weekend Reader (12 minutes)

Running Free

Growing up, Deshae knew only that she and her mother, Rebecca, seemed always to be running. Why or from what, it was never perfectly clear to the young child. But then, finally, when Deshae was 12, Rebecca decided to explain that she had been a victim of sex trafficking. Later, as she got older, as she learned her mother’s story and the truth about her childhood, she began to use it all as fuel she said, “a fire started in me to beat the odds even further.” That fire propels her on the track, where she has become one of the fastest women in the country as a freshman at Cal. On her bedroom wall is a post-it note. It is their life in the neat, script handwriting of a teenager who has already seen too much. On it, she wrote: against all odds, I will shine. Rebecca is a friend and a fellow Opportunity Collaboration Delegate and she tells her story with such grace and power. Sports Illustrated (14 minutes)

Ok, Google

At its annual I/O conference, Google announced new features, many of these new features require us giving the company more and more of our personal data. You should be aware of these 4: 1) Google Duplex: Still in the experimental stage, Google Duplex is a human-sounding AI agent that can make phone calls to set up appointments. 2) Pretty Please: Targeted at kids, Google Assistant will have the ability to respond to queries that include the word “please” with phrases like “Thanks for asking so nicely.” 3) Style Match: A new feature of   Google Lens, Style Match lets you point the phone at, for instance, a dress and get reviews or info about where you can find similar items. 4) Smart Compose: A Gmail feature that uses machine learning to suggest phrases as you type. For instance, if you type in “Taco Tuesday” as your subject, Gmail might recommend the address of your favorite taqueria. Helpful, but also a reminder that Google knows a heck of a lot about you. MIT Technology Review (8 minutes)

Climate Change & Africa

The poorest countries are disproportionately affected by climate change. Africa is extremely vulnerable to the impact of climate change compared to other continents. Even while emitting a small number of greenhouse gases, the continent is experiencing droughts, heatwaves, floods, and rising sea levels more frequently.  After two years of drought, recent floods have displaced over 260,000 people in Kenya, in Somalia, 500,000 people were affected by the floods, and the floods killed 100 others in at least 15 of the country’s 47 counties. To manage this challenge would require countries to invest in strategic approaches that would understand shortcomings, collaborate with research institutions to better understand climate phenomena, and create models that that would help prepare for and reduce the effects of disasters. Quartz (6 minutes)

Reversing Aging in Dogs

The world’s most influential synthetic biologist is behind a new company that plans to rejuvenate dogs using gene therapy. If it works, he plans to try the same approach in people, and he might be one of the first volunteers. The stealth startup Rejuvenate Bio, cofounded by George Church of Harvard Medical School, thinks dogs aren’t just man’s best friend but also the best way to bring age-defeating treatments to market. The company, which has carried out preliminary tests on beagles, claims it will make animals “younger” by adding new DNA instructions to their bodies. Its age-reversal plans build on tantalizing clues seen in simple organisms like worms and flies. Tweaking their genes can increase their life spans by double or better. Other research has shown that giving old mice blood transfusions from young ones can restore some biomarkers to youthful levels. MIT Technology Review (7 minutes)

Successful & Unhappy

Why are successful people unhappy in middle-age? Well, it turns out that satisfaction turns out to be U-shaped, with the nadir (in the U.S.) at roughly age 50. In addition, high achievers are wired to be dissatisfied when we meet goals — that is the evolutionary motivation to do the next big thing — but the result is often cumulating disappointment. Year after year of finding success less fulfilling than we expected makes us pessimistic about ever attaining satisfaction. So, we are simultaneously disappointed in the past and gloomy about the future. If you are a successful professional with everything to be grateful for, feeling disappointed in middle age will make no sense to you. High-achieving professionals tend to make a heavy emotional investment in their careers. Faced with inexplicable discontent, they may fantasize about throwing away their job and starting life anew. As if all of that were not enough, high-achieving professionals face social pressure to seem masterly and invulnerable, especially in their 40s and 50s, at or near the supposed peak of their career. If they are feeling restless, dissatisfied, or trapped, they often tell no one, not even their spouse. But isolation only makes the problem worse. The Ladders (12 minutes) 

From the Community

Conveners.org has a pretty cool tool designed to help social entrepreneurs find accelerators called the Accelerator Selection Tool.

Aim2Flourish just announced the winners of their 2018 Flourish Prizes which showcase positive business innovations that span the globe and support each of the 17 UN Global Goals.

Feedback Loop

In response to last week’s article on DNA Detectives: Hi Kyle. My aunt was one of the victims of the golden state killer. My family is so thrilled he is finally caught. I see no reason why felons shouldn’t have DNA or finger prints taken to see if they’re connected to other crimes. I also don’t see why anyone would have a problem with gov’t having their DNA or fingerprints…unless they had something to hide. I’d be curious to hear objections to my view from the weekend briefing crew. – Vaughn Spethmann

Weekend Wisdom

There has never been anything worth obtaining without grief, or suffering, and disappointment.Henry Flagler

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 Joseph Greve