Weekend Briefing No. 231

Welcome to the weekend. It’s good to be back home in Brooklyn.

I wanted to apologize for a bad link last week. The most clicked on story was about how Jerry Seinfeld wrote the Pop Tart joke, but I embedded the wrong link. My bad… too many tabs open at once. So, here’s the link. Enjoy.

Prime Numbers

300 MM – Apple and 10 suppliers will invest in and develop a $300 MM clean energy fund to build projects totaling more than 1 gigawatt of renewable energy in China.

2 MM – Johnny Depp, apparently spends $2 million a month.

500,000 – Tesla is opening a new production plant outside of Shanghai – its first foreign factory. Apparently, once it’s opened it will be able to build 500,000 cars a year, doubling its current global output.

Moonshot Factory

For Alphabet, the technological giant that has made its billions in advertising, X isn’t a junk drawer for unusual projects that don’t fit elsewhere in the corporate structure. It’s a focused attempt to find a formula for turning out revolutionary products that don’t just sit on a screen but interact with the physical world. Any project hoping to qualify as X-worthy must fall in the middle of a three-circle Venn diagram. It must involve solving a huge problem. It must present a radical solution. And it must deploy breakthrough technology. Can X effectively hatch new Googles—and put Alphabet at the head of industries that don’t yet exist? Alphabet’s attempt to birth the next generation of moonshot companies raises two questions. Can this behemoth grow exponentially? And do we want it to? Google today wields heavy influence over the parts of our lives embedded in our phones. Are we ready to let it in everywhere else? WIRED (19 minutes)

Mobility Monopoly

This week Uber partnered with the scooter startup Lime in a $335m funding round. This escalates the mobility war between ride-sharing behemoths, Uber and Lyft. In Uber and Lyft’s giant game of mobility Monopoly, the scooter is just one piece. Uber and Lyft are competing across the fronts of ride-sharing, bike-sharing (and now scooter sharing)  to become a “one-stop shop” for transportation. Just last week, Lyft announced its acquisition of the largest bike-sharing company in America, Motivate, for $250 MM challenging Uber, which bought bike-sharing company Jump in April for around $200 MM. The next battle between Uber and Lyft might take place on 4 wheels — both companies were in negotiations with crowd-sourced busing startup Skedaddle. The Hustle (5 minutes)

Single Use

Recycling plastic is to saving the Earth as what hammering a nail is to halting a falling skyscraper. You struggle to find a place to do it and feel pleased when you succeed. But your effort is wholly inadequate and distracts from the real problem of why the building is collapsing in the first place. The real problem is that single-use plastic—the very idea of producing plastic items like grocery bags, which we use for an average of 12 minutes but can persist in the environment for half a millennium—is an incredibly reckless abuse of technology. Encouraging individuals to recycle more will never solve the problem of a massive production of single-use plastic that should have been avoided in the first place. This doesn’t mean we should stop recycling, but that we should question how we can use plastic more responsibly. Scientific American (9 minutes)

Preparing Our Kids

How do we prepare our kids for jobs that don’t exist yet? The most valuable combinations of skills are going to be people who both have good training in computer science, who know how the machines work, but also understand the needs of society and the organization, and so have an understanding of humanities and social sciences. Parents should encourage kids to: 1) Be tech-savvy. Whether that means engaging on a new social media app or learning how to edit video for fun, kids should be allowed to play intuitively with technology. 2) Be flexible. Being good at more than one thing as a way of being flexible, he says. By choosing interdisciplinary courses of study, kids will not only develop a variety of skills, they’ll also be knowledgeable about more than one subject area, giving them some adaptability as jobs change. Another way to think about it? Try out a lot of different stuff. Having a variety of experience will prove valuable. Fast Company (7 minutes)

CBD Beer

Breweries are experimenting with incorporating the cannabis compound into their recipes. CBD, or cannabidiol, is not a hallucinogen; it’s the part of weed that gives you, in colloquial terms, a body high. CBD can reduce pain, and relieve both anxiety and insomnia. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive part of cannabis that affects the brain instead of the body. Brewers are largely uninterested in THC (the legal difficulties in combining alcohol and hallucinogens are too many), but the interest in CBD is a natural progression from the introduction of hops. Hemp and hops, are “cousins.” Biologically, the two are incredibly similar, and CBD has familiar yet exciting new effects when infused in beer. However, even in states where recreational use of marijuana is legal, the path to sell these craft beers is murky.  So, does it get you high? And no, it won’t get you high. But it apparently tastes really, really good. The Ringer (16 minutes)

How to Create Art that Lasts

1) Prepare for a hard road. Prepare now for the obstacles and the sacrifices and the difficulties. Because they are coming. And if you’re not up for that or you’d rather avoid them—well then good, save yourself the trouble and pursue something else! 2) Build your work around ideas that will last. Avoid the opportunities that are “of the moment.” There’s too much competition, first off. Second, the hype obscures whether there is realistic long-term potential. 3) Settle in for the long haul. Art is a kind of marathon where, when you cross the finish line, instead of a getting medal placed around your neck, the volunteers roughly grab you by the shoulders and walk you over to the starting line of another marathon. It’s exhausting, it’s slower than you want it to be…but you don’t have a choice. Thought Catalog (11 minutes)

Urgency Effect

To all of my procrastinators out there, I offer an explanation: Your brain is working against you, and it’s because of a phenomenon called the urgency effect. Our brains tend to prioritize immediate satisfaction over long-term rewards (you probably remember this from the famous marshmallow experiment). But a study from February found that subjects were more likely to perform smaller-but-urgent tasks that had a deadline than they were to perform more important tasks without one. This was true even if the outcome of the smaller task was objectively worse than that of the larger one. Even if we know a larger, less-urgent task is vastly more consequential, we will instinctively choose to do a smaller, urgent task anyway. Yet again, thanks for nothing, brain. If you’re struggling to figure out whether something is important to you, spend some time looking inward to see if it’s truly core to who you are and what your ambitions are. Once you’ve mapped out all of your tasks, embrace the magic of micro-progress and slice them up into tiny goals to make them more manageable. New York Times (7 minutes)

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From the Community

My friend Chad Owen has been producing a podcast that goes behind the scenes of the world’s greatest innovators to discover the secrets to their success. It’s called Moonshots. Check it out.

My friend Charlene Chen’s company BitPesa was featured in Forbes for building a diverse company in the crypto space.

Akshay Kapur wrote an article (really a challenge) to reduce our addiction to our phones.

Weekend Wisdom

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.Ernest Hemingway

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 Nicolas Thomas