Weekend Briefing No. 382

Welcome to the weekend.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to fill out our reader survey. As promised, here are some fun stats about our community:

  • Gender – 57 percent male / 43 percent female.
  • Education – 95 percent have at least a bachelors degree and 56 percent have a masters or higher level degree.
  • Industries – 24 percent work in tech, 10 percent work in consulting and 10 percent work in non-profits.
  • Founders – 47 percent have founded a company.
  • Startup Ecosystem – 68 percent are in the startup ecosystem.
  • Describe Yourself – The most common adjectives used to describe yourself were (1) curious, (2) thoughtful, (3) socially conscious (4) environmentally conscious (5) global citizen.

You all are pretty impressive group! I’m super grateful for your support over the years and will strive to keep making the weekend briefing better and better. Thanks so much.

Here’s my June playlist.

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Prime Numbers

150—Humans probably can’t live longer than 150 years.

39Thirty-nine percent of US workers would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. Among millennials and Gen Z, that figure was 49%, according to the poll by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News.

0.92—South Korea’s fertility rate dropped to a record low of 0.92 in 2019—less than one child per woman, the lowest rate in the developed world. Every month for the past 59 months, the total number of babies born in the country has dropped to a record depth.

Capitalism

Capitalism continues to wane in popularity. Will it die or be reimagined? In recent years, various ideas and proposals have emerged that aim to rewrite capitalism’s social contract. What they have in common is the idea that businesses need more varied measures of success than simply profit and growth. In business, there’s “conscious capitalism,” inspired by the practices of so-called “ethical” brands. In policy, there’s “inclusive capitalism,” advocated by both the Bank of England and The Vatican, which advocates harnessing “capitalism for good.” And in sustainability, there’s the idea of “doughnut economics,” a theory proposed by economist and author Kate Raworth, which suggests that it’s possible to thrive economically as a society while also staying within social and planetary boundaries. Then there’s the “Five Capitals” model articulated by Jonathan Porritt, the author of Capitalism As If The World Matters. Porritt calls for the integration of five pillars of human capital—natural, human, social, manufactured and financial capital—into existing economic models. One tangible example of where companies are beginning to embrace the Five Capitals is the B-Corporation movement. Certified companies sign up for a legal obligation to consider “the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment.” BBC (18 minutes)

Feedback Loop

What do you think? Is the current form of capitalism working? If not, what would be better? Share your ideas here.

Konza

By the looks of the Konza, there’s little to indicate that 13 years have gone by since the launch of what was first trumpeted by the Kenyan government in 2008 as being the future “best-planned” city in Africa. With promises of mass job creation and investors “trooping in,” It was also the start of a continent-wide trend. Over the past decade, more than a half-dozen African countries have attempted to foist themselves into the upper strata of tech and finance through the development of smart cities. Kenya was one of the earliest “Vision Cities” because it was one of the first African countries to outsource its dreaming to McKinsey. The entire Vision 2030 strategy was developed by the Kenyan government in conjunction with McKinsey & Company, with Konza being one of many techno-utopian urban renewal projects the firm was involved in. At first, most were undertaken in Asia. Then, in the 2000s, the focus shifted to African countries, which were seen as growth markets for big tech and financial corporations. After all, Africa was rising and was therefore ripe for exploitation by Western businesses. As Adam Greenfield writes in Against the smart city, multinationals such as IBM, Cisco and Siemens AG saw techno-cities as a win-win: a way to sell proprietary technology and to construct markets for their urban and municipal services. In many cases, gullible countries went for it. Rest of the World (26 minutes)

Biden’s Venmo

A couple weeks ago, following a passing mention in the New York Times that the president had sent his grandchildren money on Venmo, BuzzFeed News searched for the president’s account using only a combination of the app’s built-in search tool and public friends’ feature. In the process, BuzzFeed News found nearly a dozen Biden family members and mapped out a social web that encompasses not only the first family, but a wide network of people around them, including the president’s children, grandchildren, senior White House officials and all of their contacts on Venmo. The president’s transactions are not public, and BuzzFeed News is not identifying the usernames for the accounts mentioned in this story due to national security concerns. What does this say about national security? What does this say about user privacy? Buzzfeed (11 minutes)

Privacy

We gave up our privacy to fight COVID-19. Can we get it back? Check out this short film starring Lydia West and Arthur Darvill by the Financial Times. An interrogation scene explores how COVID-19 has exposed the tension between the need for data to track and trace, and the right to privacy and justice. YouTube (18 minutes)

Curiosity

Scientists who study the mechanics of curiosity are finding that it is, at its core, a kind of probability algorithm—our brain’s continuous calculation of which path or action is likely to gain us the most knowledge in the least amount of time. Like the links on a Wikipedia page, curiosity builds upon itself, every question leading to the next. And as with a journey down the Wikipedia wormhole, where you start dictates where you might end up. That’s the funny thing about curiosity: It’s less about what you don’t know than about what you already do. Nautilus (16 minutes)

Wasp Architecture

Mario Cucinella Architects and Wasp, Italy’s leading 3D printing company, have completed the first house to be 3D-printed from raw earth. The process coined Tecla (standing for technology and clay) is eco-sustainable and environmentally friendly due to the production being zero waste and needing no materials to be transported to the site as it uses local soil. It took just 200 hours for multiple printers to construct the 60-square-metre prototype in Ravenna, Italy. The design of the house is an organic, cave-like form that seems ancient and carved out of nature, visually contradicting the innovative technology behind it. Check out the photos of this new form of 3D-printed architecture. It’s Nice That (5 minutes)

Stupid Questions

It turns out there are such things as stupid questions. But generally, they are from the teacher / boss, not the student / employee. Ozan Varol explains: When I first became a professor, I’d pause from time to time during class and ask, “Does anyone have a question?” Nine times out of 10, no one would raise their hand. I’d move on, confident that I’d done a stellar job of explaining the material. I was wrong. The exam answers made it clear that there were plenty of students who weren’t getting it. So I decided to run an experiment. Instead of asking, “Does anyone have any questions?” I began to say, “I’ll now take your questions,” or even better, “The material we just covered was confusing, and I’m confident there are plenty of you with questions. This is a great time to ask them.” The number of hands that went up increased dramatically. I realized that “Does anyone have any questions?” was a stupid question. I had forgotten how hard it is for students who pride themselves on their intellectual powers to admit that they didn’t understand something in a crowd of peers. My reframed question made it easier for students to raise their hands. It made it clear that the material was difficult, and I expected there to be questions. With this reframing, my desired outcome (more questions from students) became the norm—not the exception. Ozan Varol (6 minutes)

Bookshelf

The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida by Lawrence Cahoone. These 36 lectures are the perfect introduction to the basics of modern and contemporary Western approaches to the philosophies of both reality (metaphysics) and knowledge (epistemology), right through the end of the 20th century. Led by Professor Cahoone, you’ll partake in an engaging intellectual journey that encompasses prominent figures from all the major traditions of Western philosophy. You’ll explore the ideas behind modern philosophy’s most important movements, including dualism, rationalism, empiricism, idealism, existentialism and postmodernism. You’ll plunge into the thought of some of philosophy’s most important thinkers, including Descartes, Locke, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Peirce, Nietzsche, James, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Rorty and Derrida, learning how many of them were in fact considered radicals, their views appreciated far less in their own era than in later ones. And you’ll gain a clear sense of how each of these movements and thinkers fits into philosophy’s broader progression, often pushing philosophy in dramatically new directions right up to the present day, as well as how philosophy is intimately related to a multitude of other disciplines. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

Cancel Culture—A Pew Research study on what Americans think about Cancel Culture.

Tipping Point—When we look back on May 26, 2021, will it be marked as the tipping point for oil companies?

The Heat List—Chicago’s predictive policing program told a man he would be involved in a shooting. But it couldn’t determine which side of the gun he would be on. Instead, it made him the victim of a violent crime—twice.

Feedback Loop—What do you think about Cancel Culture?

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 Nathan Hurst.

Should We Work Together?

This newsletter is my passion project. I hope it helps you gain deeper insight and equips you to create meaningful impact in the world. Many readers have asked about how we can work together. In case you’re interested, I run a law firm for startups. We try to keep things simple by offering transparent flat fees. We structure our engagements in two ways: (1) Per-project flat fee engagements—No billable hour means no surprise legal bills. (2) General Counsel—A simple monthly fee for all your day-to-day legal needs. It was recently recognized as one of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas.  If you’re interested, let’s jump on a call to see if you’re a good fit for the firm. Click here to schedule a call.

Weekend Wisdom

Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power.Rene Descartes

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