Weekend Briefing No. 338

Welcome to the weekend.

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Prime Numbers

9—In December, Johns Hopkins Medicine paid $0.40 per gown from a supplier in China, but today they are paying $9 per gown from a domestic supplier.

54—As of 2017, the eight largest dairy cooperatives marketed 54 percent of the country’s milk.

32.9—In the second quarter of 2020, the U.S. gross domestic product declined by 32.9 percent on an annualized basis. 

Tech on the Hill

This week, Big Tech went to Washington to talk anti-trust. (1) With Amazon, members focused on two key areas: the company’s controversial use of data about third-party sellers on its platform to inform the development—and promotion—of its own products; and the proliferation of counterfeit goods on the site, and the harm that causes for buyers and sellers. (2) Apple arguably got off the lightest of any of the companies in today’s hearing. It’s not clear why, though the avenues of inquiry are clear. Apple makes at least 60 apps like Music and Mail that compete with third-party sellers but are not subjected to the 30 percent tax that it places on them, reducing competition in the marketplace. (3) For Facebook, the questions were mostly backward-looking: why did it buy Instagram? Was it to eliminate a competitor? (4) Google took questions about the way its search engine often privileges results from Google-owned properties at the expense of small businesses. The Interface (11 minutes)

Algorithm Transparency

This week, in his first public statement as CEO of TikTok, former Disney exec Kevin Mayer says the company will be releasing that code that drives its content-moderation algorithms so that experts can observe how its policies are enforced in real time. He says TikTok will also reveal its data flows to regulators and is calling on its rivals to do the same. It’s an unprecedented move that could help defuse concerns from U.S. lawmakers that the app is a data-harvesting tool for the Chinese government. It would also place TikTok ahead of its peers in terms of transparency. TikTok will launch a Transparency and Accountability Center in Los Angeles for moderation and data practices that will house all of its data flows and code moving forward. The center will host online tours of its data during the pandemic. Axios (6 minutes)

Emperor of Mars

This Times interview of Elon Musk is fun. It covers life with Grimes and Baby X, Trump, Tesla, tunnels, short shorts, stock surges, Facebook fumbles and everything else under the sun. Speaking on his relationship with Grimes, he said, “We’ve had this debate of ‘Are you more crazy than me or am I more crazy than you?’” working with A.I. at Tesla lets him say with confidence “that we’re headed toward a situation where A.I. is vastly smarter than humans and I think that time frame is less than five years from now. But that doesn’t mean that everything goes to hell in five years. It just means that things get unstable or weird.” And, in case you’re wondering, he’s still mourning Harambe. New York Times (16 minutes)

Trust Equation

Repair and strengthen your relationships at the office and at home with this trust equation. Trust = (Credibility + Reliability + Authenticity) / Perception of Self Interest. Credibility: You’ll find someone credible if they seem to have the knowledge, experience and familiarity to perform a particular role well. Reliability: You’ll find someone reliable if they do what they say they’re going to do. You feel like anything you assign them is as good as done. Authenticity: This is a nebulous term and is often overthought. What it really means in practice is: How easy is it to get to know the person? Perception of self-interest: Does someone seem to be acting only for themselves? Maybe it’s to get credit, to look good, to make more money or get more headcount. Note that this variable is more about optics. The greater the perception of self-interest, the lower the trust between people. First Round Review (21 minutes)

Tech Talent

At the beginning of the crisis, tech job postings initially fared better than overall postings. That may be because lots of tech work doesn’t require much face-to-face interaction. What’s more, some tech companies already had remote work policies in place, making it easy to scale up work from home. However, as the pandemic progresses, tech postings now are performing worse than the overall job market. Tech postings started to fall behind in mid-May and, since then, the gap has grown steadily. On July 24, the overall job postings trend was 21 percent below its 2019 level. But tech jobs were hit harder, settling at 36 percent below last year’s level for weeks and showing no signs of bouncing back. As tech postings have declined, relative job seeker interest in the sector has risen. In February, tech job postings received 68 percent of the clicks of the average posting. By July 24, tech postings were attracting 95 percent of the clicks of the average job. More clicks per posting means that, relative to employment opportunities, more people are interested in these jobs than in the pre-COVID era. This greater competition could spell a loss of bargaining power for tech workers. If more people want these jobs, tech companies may scale back benefits like unlimited personal time off.  Indeed (7 minutes)

Practices v. Routines

Practices are different than routines. Practices are things you do regularly—perhaps daily, perhaps not—but in no particular order. They are things you return to, time and time again, to center yourself. To reset. To reconnect. To focus. Waking up everyday at 6 a.m. and watching the news while you have your coffee: that’s part of a routine. Prayer or meditation: that’s a practice. Eating at the same lunch place and same time everyday is a routine. Being vegan or eating kosher is a practice. Journaling is a practice. Going to the 9 a.m. CrossFit class is a routine. Exercising regularly is a practice. The difference is in the flexibility. One is about daily rhythm. The other is a lifelong pursuit. One can be ruined by something as simple as hitting the snooze button one too many times or getting called into work unexpectedly. The other can adapt accordingly. One is something you made up. The other is something you do. Ryan Holiday (9 minutes)

Building a Quality Relationship

If you have ever labored over how to convey your personality through a dating app bio—or judged someone else’s through theirs—research on romance suggests you place your efforts elsewhere. It’s taken 20 years of relationship science to get here, but scientists now argue that there’s something far more important than your personality or even your partner’s when it comes to cultivating happy relationships. The most powerful predictors of relationship quality are the characteristics of the relationship itself—the life dynamic you build with your person. This is according to an analysis of 11,196 couples gleaned from 43 studies. It suggests that the person we choose is not nearly as important as the relationship we build. The five most powerful relationship-based variables that explained differences in satisfaction were: (1) Perceived partner commitment (in a phrase: “My partner wants this relationship to last forever”); (2) Appreciation (feeling lucky to have your partner); (3) Sexual satisfaction; (4) Perceived partner satisfaction (how happy you think the relationship makes your partner); (5) Conflict. Inverse (12 minutes)

Bookshelf

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri is the winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. This stunning debut collection unerring charts the emotional journeys of characters seeking love beyond the barriers of nations and generations. In stories that travel from India to America and back again, Lahiri speaks with universal eloquence to everyone who has ever felt like a foreigner. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

1918—This episode of RadioLab looks back to the years after 1918, at the political, artistic and viral aftermath of the flu pandemic that killed between 50 and 100 million people, and left our world permanently transformed.

Canceling Cancel Culture—The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides. The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time.

Justice & Open Debate—The signatories of the Harper’s Magazine letter—many of them white, wealthy and endowed with massive platforms—argue that they are afraid of being silenced, that so-called cancel culture is out of control, and that they fear for their jobs and free exchange of ideas, even as they speak from one of the most prestigious magazines in the country.

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 Juli Kosolapova.

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Weekend Wisdom

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. Plato

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