Weekend Briefing No. 227

Welcome to the weekend.

Prime Numbers

1T A trillion photos are taken every year on iPhones

2B E-scooter company Bird is seeking to raise around $200 million in new funding at a $2 billion valuation, according to multiple sources. This would be just weeks after it raised $150 million at a $1 billion valuation, and only three months after raising at a $300 million valuation. Venture capitalists have never before participated in such a rapid and rocketing price spike.

6 The rate at which Antarctica is losing ice has tripled since 2007, according to the latest available data. The continent is now melting so fast, scientists say, that it will contribute six inches to sea-level rise by 2100.

From Thin Air

A team of scientists from Harvard University and the company Carbon Engineering announced on Thursday that they have found a method to cheaply and directly pull carbon-dioxide pollution out of the atmosphere at industrial scales, by 2021. Their research suggests that people will soon be able to produce gasoline and jet fuel from little more than limestone, hydrogen, and air. It hints at the eventual construction of a vast, industrial-scale network of carbon scrubbers, capable of removing greenhouse gases directly from the atmosphere. Above all, the new technique is noteworthy because it promises to remove carbon dioxide cheaply. As recently as 2011, a panel of experts estimated that it would cost at least $600 to remove a metric ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If their technique is successfully implemented at scale, it could transform how humanity thinks about the problem of climate change. It could give people a decisive new tool in the race against a warming planet, but could also unsettle the issue’s delicate politics, making it all the harder for society to adapt. The Atlantic (6 minutes)

Drone Delivery

Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com is investing in drones to bring online shopping to a 600m-strong rural population. It is a link in a new kind of logistics chain, the world’s first operational drone-delivery program. While Amazon, an American company, has put out numerous promotional videos on its drone-delivery plans, it will not start commercial operations until at least 2020. Meanwhile, JD.com has spent the past year building a real drone-delivery network covering 100 villages in rural China with 40 drones and delivering over 20,000 packages. Thanks to the drones, Chinese villagers can expect delivery on the same day that they place an order, like urban shoppers in Beijing, New York or London. JD.com says that making a delivery by drone costs a fifth of the price than by man-and-van, once the driver’s labor is taken into account. Drone delivery will cut costs by 70% once it is scaled up across the country. The Economist (9 minutes)

Social Impact ETF

This week Goldman Sachs, using metrics from Just Capital, will introduce a new exchange-traded fund as part of series of social impact efforts from the firm. The fund is a feel-good selection of Russell 1000 companies, tracking the top 50 percent of those in each industry based on Just Capital’s publicly available model, which scores businesses using a complex formula related to workers, customers, products, environment, jobs, communities and management. Only 6 percent of the calculation of the index relates to how well a company provides investor return. The top five companies in the 2017 rankings all came from the tech sector: Intel was No. 1, followed by Texas Instruments, Nvidia, Microsoft and IBM. Whether the formula is a winning one for investors is a bit of an open question. The fund would have outperformed the Russell 1000 by 3.47 percent over the past two years. New York Times (6 minutes)

Golden Rules of Leadership

I just came across the ten golden rules of leadership. I thought I’d share 4 I like: 1) Know thyself. Understand your inner world, your bright and dark sides, your personal strengths and weakness. Self-comprehension is a fundamental precondition necessary for real leadership. 2) Do not waste energy on things you cannot change. Do not waste resources and energies on things you cannot control, and therefore, cannot change. 3) Let competition reveal talent. Nurture an environment that can use the forces of competition constructively, create a platform that releases the ingenuity and creativity of your employees in pursuing corporate goals and objectives, identify subordinates who use competition as a constructive force, steer away from subordinates who use competition as a destructive force. 4) Character is destiny. True leadership is ultimately traceable to factors of character and personal integrity; much of what is called “destiny” lies in our hands, not in mysterious forces beyond our control. Farnam Street (7 minutes)

How to Talk to Children

Following up on the popular video of Mr. Rogers from last week, here are his tips on how to talk to children: 1) State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand. Example: It is dangerous to play in the street. ​​​ 2) Rephrase in a positive manner. Example: It is good to play where it is safe. 3)Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust. Example: Ask your parents where it is safe to play.  4) Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive. That’d mean getting rid of “ask”. Example: Your parents will tell you where it is safe to play. 5) Rephrase any element that suggests certainty. That’d be “will”. Example: Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play. 6) Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children. Not all children know their parents. Example: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. 7) Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.  Example: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is good to listen to them. 8) Rephrase your new statement, repeating the first step. “Good” represents a value judgment. Example: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them. 9) Rephrase your idea a final time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand. Example: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing. The Atlantic (8 minutes)

Effort & Reward

Effort and reward have a linear relationship when the action is mindless and simple. Effort and reward have a diminishing returns relationship when the action is complex and multivariate. But when the action becomes purely psychological—an experience that exists solely within our own consciousness—the relationship between effort and reward becomes inverted. This extends to most — if not all — aspects of our mental health and relationships: 1) Control – The more we strive to control our own feelings and impulses, the more powerless we will feel. Our emotional life is unruly and often uncontrollable, and it’s the desire to control it that makes it worse. Conversely, the more we accept our feelings and impulses, the more we’re able to direct them and process them. 2) Freedom – The constant desire for more freedom ironically limits us in a number of ways. Similarly, it’s only by limiting ourselves — by choosing and committing to certain things in life — that we truly exercise our freedom. 3) Love – The more we try to make others love and accept us, the less they will, and more importantly, the less we will love and accept ourselves. MM.net (16 minutes)

X-Ray Vision

Wireless radio signals can monitor a person’s movements through a solid wall, thanks to artificial intelligence. MIT researcher Dina Katabi, has been developing technology for detecting people behind a wall using radio waves. The approach relies on cutting-edge machine learning to interpret the signals. Katabi and her students trained an AI system using radio signals and video footage of people moving around. This made it possible to generate stick figures showing what people were doing behind a wall. See it in action on this video. YouTube (2 minutes)

Reply All

What do you think of this new X-Ray technology? Click here to vote.

Feedback Loop

Last week’s Reply All question was: Has anyone ever done something truly generous for you?

You responded: 94.4% Yes, 5.6% Maybe, 0% No way.

Some of the answers you gave were truly heartwarming. Read them below:

I remember, I was a single Mom, years ago when my daughter was little and Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage. There was no way that one of those dolls was in my budget and that was all that she wanted for Christmas. A woman in my office gave me $100 so that Santa could bring the doll to my little one. I have never forgotten that and I make sure to give someone in need $100 every Christmas. Sometimes they have no idea where the gift came from. My note to self, way back then, was “never forget where you came from”!

When our family was in need of a second car to get our 1st child to school a friend GAVE us a car.

When I graduated from college a member of my family’s church sent me $1,000 check to help cover school costs. I didn’t know them well at all and was shocked. They were just really proud and excited that I had gotten into Harvard and it reminded them of their years at MIT and they felt compelled to give to me.

I have a mentor right now, who selflessly pours into me in my life and my kids in my marriage with no goals or hope for anything in return except for the personal growth he gains in mentoring me.

From the Community

Hamoon Ekhtiari, in partnership with organizations like Deloitte and TD Bank, just launched AudaciousYou, as a response to the big future of work & education questions.

Weekend Wisdom

Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start. –Anthony Bourdain

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 Dimitri Popov