Weekend Briefing No. 341
Welcome to the weekend.
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1.72 B—In May, users spent 1.72 billion hours watching livestreamed content on Twitch, up from 867 million hours in December.
88—The Calgary Zoo is home to two giant pandas, Er Shun and Da Mao, and very much would prefer that to no longer be the case. Pandas only eat fresh bamboo, 88 pounds of it per day. Their supply is set to run out in September.
12.5—Due to climate change, cities in the Northern Hemisphere are, from a temperature standpoint, basically moving southward at a rate of about 12.5 miles per year.
Uber’s CEO is proposing that gig economy companies be required to establish benefits funds that give workers cash that they can use for the benefits they want, like health insurance or paid time off. Independent workers in any state that pass this law could take money out for every hour of work they put in. All gig companies would be required to participate, so that workers can build up benefits even if they switch between apps. Why just give drivers money and let them decide what to do with it, rather than requiring companies to provide specific benefits to everyone? It comes down to what drivers want. When you ask many policymakers which benefit they think is most important to drivers, the answer is almost always health care. Yet when we ask drivers which benefit they most want, health care doesn’t crack the top five. That’s most likely because most drivers already have some form of health insurance, whether through another job, the Affordable Care Act or a family member. New York Times (11 minutes)
As of June 2021, the world has been in pandemic mode for a year and a half. The virus continues to spread at a slow burn, and intermittent lockdowns are the new normal. An approved vaccine offers six months of protection, but international deal-making has slowed its distribution. An estimated 250 million people have been infected worldwide, and 1.75 million are dead. Scenarios such as this one imagine how the COVID-19 pandemic might play out. Around the world, epidemiologists are constructing short- and long-term projections as a way to prepare for, and potentially mitigate, the spread and impact of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Although their forecasts and timelines vary, modelers agree on two things: COVID-19 is here to stay, and the future depends on a lot of unknowns, including whether people develop lasting immunity to the virus, whether seasonality affects its spread, and—perhaps most importantly—the choices made by governments and individuals. Nature (16 minutes)
A group of medical doctors and bioengineers needed a 3D bioprinter for their own research. When realizing how hard it was to get ahold of one, they decided to make their own. Humanity has seen a huge paradigm shift in technology and medicine. Yet we still rely on organ donors, and the gap between receiver demand and donor supply continues to widen. With 3D bioprinting, we can finally start printing tissues with bioink that’s made up from cell culture. The boom of 3D printer and cell culture advancements has paved the way for new possibilities that could save lives. The Innovation (3 minutes)
When the coronavirus pandemic first hit in March, many technology start-ups braced themselves for The End, as business dried up, venture capitalists warned of dark times ahead and restructuring experts predicted the beginning of a “great unwinding” after a decade-long boom. Five months later, those doomsday warnings have not translated into the drastic shakeout that many had expected. The stabilization has created a surreal disconnect between tech start-ups and the broader economy. While retailers, restaurant chains and many other companies are filing for bankruptcy and are dealing with one of the worst downturns on record, the tech industry has largely sidestepped the worst of the destruction. Demand has surged for start-ups that offer virtual learning, telehealth, e-commerce, video games and streaming, and software for remote workers. Start-ups in areas like fitness or children’s activities also quickly adapted their offerings to go virtual. New York Times (9 minutes)
On August 1, 2002, a couple cyberpunks published a declaration of independence for a new state, which they called the Republic of CyberBunker. It was a house in a bunker built by the West German Army, which was five stories deep, had nearly 60K square feet of floor space and was designed to withstand a nuclear attack. Eighty days’ worth of survival provisions were stored inside, including an emergency power supply and more than a million liters of drinking water. You entered the facility through an air lock; the interior temperature was set to 70 degrees. The walls were concrete, 31 inches thick and some were lined with copper. The rooms were soundproof and transmission-proof. Citing a U.N. Security Council resolution from 1960, which said that “all people have the right to self-determination,” the Republic of CyberBunker—population six—seceded from the Netherlands. CyberBunker declared as its sovereign territory the 500 acres containing the ruined bunker. The new nation promoted anti-authoritarian, libertarian ideas. Among his tenets: Free speech is supreme; everyone has a right to be online; the Internet erases the power of the state; copyright is 20th century bullshit. Such notions were in fashion during the ‘90s, when big technology firms had yet to dominate the Internet. This is the story of the rise and fall of CyberBunker. New Yorker (32 minutes)
How to Think
No skill is more valuable and harder to come by than the ability to critically think through problems. And schools don’t teach you a method of thinking, you have to do the work yourself. Those who do it well get an advantage, and those that do it poorly pay a tax. So, how do you learn to think? Stop multitasking; it impairs your ability to think. Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Don’t learn other people’s ideas or memorize a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful. Develop your own ideas. In short, think for yourself. You simply cannot do that in bursts of 20 seconds at a time, constantly interrupted by Facebook messages or tweets, or fiddling with your iPod, or watching something on YouTube. It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of your mind come into play, that you arrive at an original idea. By giving your brain a chance to make associations, you may draw connections that take you by surprise. Farnam Street (5 minutes)
Success v. Happiness
Success resembles addiction in its effect on human relationships. People sacrifice their links with others for their true love: success. They travel for business on anniversaries. They miss Little League games and recitals while working long hours. Some forgo marriage for their careers—earning the appellation of being “married to their work”—even though a good relationship is more satisfying than any job. Many scholars, such as the psychologist Barbara Killinger, have shown that people willingly sacrifice their own well-being through overwork to keep getting hits of success. I know a thing or two about this: As I once found myself confessing to a close friend, “I would prefer to be special than happy.” He asked why. “Anyone can do the things it takes to be happy—going on vacation with family, relaxing with friends … but not everyone can accomplish great things.” My friend scoffed at this, but I started asking other people in my circles and found that I wasn’t unusual. Many of them had made the success addict’s choice of specialness over happiness. They (and sometimes I) would put off ordinary delights of relaxation and time with loved ones until after this project, or that promotion, when finally it would be time to rest. The pursuit of achievement distracts from the deeply ordinary activities and relationships that make life meaningful. The Atlantic (8 minutes)
Check out Who Can You Trust by Rachel Botsman. If you can’t trust those in charge, who can you trust? From government to business, and banks to media, trust in institutions is at an all-time low. But this isn’t the age of distrust—far from it. In this revolutionary book, world-renowned trust expert Rachel Botsman reveals that we are at the tipping point of one of the biggest social transformations in human history—with fundamental consequences for everyone. A new world order is emerging: We might have lost faith in institutions and leaders, but millions of people rent their homes to total strangers, exchange digital currencies or find themselves trusting a bot. This is the age of “distributed trust,” a paradigm shift driven by innovative technologies that are rewriting the rules of an all-too-human relationship. If we are to benefit from this radical shift, we must understand the mechanics of how trust is built, managed, lost and repaired in the digital age. In the first book to explain this new world, Botsman provides a detailed map of this uncharted landscape—and explores what’s next for humanity. Amazon
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Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. –Omar Khayyam
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