Weekend Briefing No. 362

Welcome to the weekend.

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Prime Numbers

500 B—Governments and companies are expected to issue $500 billion in green debt in 2021.

140,000—The U.S. lost 140,000 jobs in December, of which 156,000 were lost by women. Male employment rose 16,000. Think about that. Women accounted for 100 percent of the net job loss in the US last month with Black and Latina women taking the biggest hits. Shocking.

500 M—On Tuesday, Telegram said it added more than 25 million users over the previous three days, pushing it to over 500 million users. Signal added nearly 1.3 million users on Monday alone, after averaging just 50,000 downloads a day last year.

Corporate Purpose

According to a McKinsey survey, the sweet spot for corporate purpose is when the “we” overlaps with the “me,” they, their employees and even society greatly benefit. But that’s happening only 44 percent of the time right now. For companies that achieve this alignment of corporate and employee purpose, there are benefits: 1) Eighty-seven percent of employees intend to stay art the company. 2) Seventy-seven percent of employees are engaged at work. 3) Ninety-three percent of employees are willing to advocate. 4) More than 90 percent of these employees are more likely to say that the company is having a positive impact on customers, employees, organizations and society. McKinsey (3 minutes)

GM’s Eclectic Future

After its electric vehicle (EV)-centric rebrand, it wasn’t surprising that GM focused on EVs in its CES presentation. It unveiled some concepts during its showcase, including a single-seater VTOL drone, as well an EV ecosystem for delivery companies. The automaker also spent some time discussing the Ultium battery system and the Hummer EV. While GM didn’t offer a look at its retooled Bolt EVs, it promised to show those off next month. If you’re keen to take a peek at what GM actually unveiled in the presentation, we’ve boiled down everything you need to know into a 10-minute video. Engadget (10 minutes)

AI Nationalism

Continued rapid progress in machine learning will drive the emergence of a new kind of geopolitics called AI Nationalism. Machine learning is an omni-use technology that will come to touch all sectors and parts of society. The transformation of both the economy and the military by machine learning will create instability at the national and international level, forcing governments to act. AI policy will become the single most important area of government policy. An accelerated arms race will emerge between key countries, and we will see increased protectionist state action to support national champions, and block takeovers by foreign firms and attract talent. This arms race will potentially speed up the pace of AI development and shorten the timescale for getting to Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). Although there will be many common aspects to this techno-nationalist agenda, there will also be important state specific policies. There is a difference between predicting that something will happen and believing this is a good thing. Nationalism is a dangerous path, particularly when the international order and international norms will be in flux as a result. Eventually, a period of AI Nationalism might transition to one of global cooperation where AI is treated as a global public good. Ian Hogarth (24 minutes)

The Bet

On March 6, 1995, WIRED’s executive editor and resident techno-optimist Kevin Kelly went to the Greenwich Village apartment of the author Kirkpatrick Sale. Sale had just written a book called Rebels Against the Future. It told the story of the 19th-century Luddites, a movement of workers opposed to the machinery of the Industrial Revolution. Sale had predicted society would collapse by 2020. It seemed like a good, round number. Kelly then asked how, in a quarter century, one might determine whether Sale was right. Sale extemporaneously cited three factors: an economic disaster that would render the dollar worthless, causing a depression worse than the one in 1930; a rebellion of the poor against the monied; and a significant number of environmental catastrophes. “Would you be willing to bet on your view?” Kelly asked. “Sure,” Sale said. Then Kelly sprung his trap. He had come to Sale’s apartment with a $1,000 check drawn on his joint account with this wife. Now he handed it to his startled interview subject. “I bet you $1,000 that in the year 2020, we’re not even close to the kind of disaster you describe,” he said. Sale barely had $1,000 in his bank account. But he figured that if he lost, $1,000 would be worth much less in 2020 anyway. He agreed. Kelly suggested they both send their checks for safekeeping to William Patrick, the editor who had handled both Sale’s Luddite book and Kelly’s recent tome on robots and artificial life; Sale agreed. “Oh, boy,” Kelly said after Sale wrote out the check. “This is easy money.” Twenty-five years later, the once distant deadline is here. Who won the bet? WIRED (31 minutes)

Questions

Leaders today need to revisit an overlooked skill: asking questions. Leaders assume that people look to them for answers—bold assertions that build people’s confidence in their competence. But in reality, that kind of approach erodes trust, especially at a time when so much is manifestly uncertain. You think you have the answers to all important questions? That suggests that you are either clueless—you have no idea how rapidly the world is changing—or that you are lying. In either case, you won’t find that trust that you’ve been looking for. The kind of questions leaders need to ask are those that invite people to come together to explore major new opportunities that your organization hasn’t identified yet. Here are some examples: 1) What is a game-changing opportunity that could create much more value than we have delivered in the past? 2) What are emerging unmet needs of our customers that could provide the foundation for an entirely new business? 3) How could we leverage the resources of third parties to address a broader range of the needs of our customers? 4) How can we move from standardized, mass-market products and services to personalizing our products and services to the specific needs of each customer? 5) How can we develop supply networks that would be more flexible in responding to unanticipated disruptions in production or logistics? 6) How could we harness sensor technology to create more visibility into how our customers are using our products, and use this information to deliver more value and deepen trust with our customers? Harvard Business Review (7 minutes)

Writing

Here are a few thoughts on writing: 1) You have five seconds to get people’s attention. Books, blogs, emails, reports, it doesn’t matter—if you don’t sell them in five seconds you’ve exhausted most of their patience. 2) Whoever says the most stuff in the fewest words wins. 3) Delete without mercy. You can never create something worth reading unless you are committed to the total destruction of everything that isn’t. 4) Writing looks like a soft skill, so it’s easy for people in technical fields to ignore. But in every field, the person with the best story wins. Not the best idea, or the right answer, or the most useful solution. Just whoever tells the most persuasive story. A lot of good ideas are killed with bad writing. Collaborative Fund (6 minutes)

Dating in a Pandemic

In a year when sharing space and air with people is potentially dangerous, one would think that dating would be particularly dismal, perhaps even put on hold. Recent data suggest that’s not quite the case, however, and even point to some positive developments: Many single Americans have been more intentional about whom they date, are having deeper conversations, and are spending more quality time with new partners. Most dating apps report increased usage since March and noticeable changes in daters’ attitudes. Singles in America surveyed 5,000 Americans and found that 58 percent of people who use dating apps say they have shifted toward more intentional dating since the pandemic. Of those surveyed, 69 percent are being more honest with potential partners and 63 percent are spending more time getting to know them. The dating site OkCupid, where I am a scientific adviser, also noticed a 20 percent decline in users seeking a hookup. These numbers are optimistic news for people looking for a relationship, given that research finds that couples who spend time getting to know each other before having sex have happier relationships later on. Prioritizing emotional connection allows romantic relationships to ignite via a slow simmer, rather than to burn out quickly. The Atlantic (6 minutes)

Bookshelf

Influence by Robert Cialdini. In this highly acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini—the seminal expert in the field of influence and persuasion—explains the psychology of why people say yes and how to apply these principles ethically in business and everyday situations. You’ll learn the six universal principles of influence and how to use them to become a skilled persuader—and, just as importantly, how to defend yourself against dishonest influence attempts: 1) Reciprocation: The internal pull to repay what another person has provided us. 2) Commitment and Consistency: Once we make a choice or take a stand, we work to behave consistently with that commitment in order to justify our decisions. 3) Social Proof: When we are unsure, we look to others who are similar to provide us with the correct actions to take. And the more people undertaking that action, the more we consider that action correct. 4) Liking: The propensity to agree with people we like and, just as important, the propensity for others to agree with us, if we like them. 5) Authority: We are more likely to say “yes” to others who are authorities, who carry greater knowledge, experience or expertise. 6) Scarcity: We want more of what is less available or dwindling in availability. 7) Understanding and applying the six principles ethically is cost-free and deceptively easy. Backed by Dr. Cialdini’s 35 years of evidence-based, peer-reviewed scientific research—as well as by a three-year field study on what moves people to change behavior—influence is a comprehensive guide to using these principles effectively to amplify your ability to change the behavior of others. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

The Hits—This brilliant piece of audio/visual journalism covers every top-five song from 1958–2016. Put your headphones on, and enjoy the experience.

Bookshelf—This is every book I read in 2020 rated and ranked.

The Gospel of Hydrogen—On the East Coast of the U.S., there’s just one person driving a hydrogen-powered car. His name is Mike Strizki.

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 Axel Antas-Bergkvist.

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Weekend Wisdom

Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life. –Hunter S. Thompson

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