Weekend Briefing No. 390

Welcome to the weekend.

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Prime Numbers

39,000,000—Lottery officials say a woman in Germany carried a winning ticket in her purse for weeks without realizing it was worth about 33 million euros, or $39 million.

42—Almost half (42 percent) of Japan’s jobs could be displaced by automation by 2030.

60—China aims to cover 5.5 million square kilometers, or 60 percent of the country, with an artificial precipitation program by 2025.

Metaverse

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has an ambitious new initiative. The future of the company would go far beyond its current project of building a set of connected social apps and some hardware to support them. Instead, he said, Facebook would strive to build a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi—a world known as the metaverse. The metaverse is having a moment. Coined in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel, the term refers to a convergence of physical, augmented and virtual reality in a shared online space. In January 2020, an influential essay by the venture capitalist Matthew Ball set out to identify key characteristics of a metaverse. Among them: It has to span the physical and virtual worlds, contain a fully-fledged economy and offer “unprecedented interoperability”—users have to be able to take their avatars and goods from one place in the metaverse to another, no matter who runs that particular part of it. Critically, no one company will run the metaverse—it will be an “embodied internet.” At the same time, Zuckerberg said, the metaverse will bring enormous opportunity to individual creators and artists; to individuals who want to work and own homes far from today’s urban centers; and to people who live in places where opportunities for education or recreation are more limited. A realized metaverse could be the next best thing to a working teleportation device, he says. With the company’s Oculus division, which produces the Quest headset, Facebook is trying to develop one. Check out this interview with Zuckerberg to learn more. Platformer (12 minutes)

Different By Design

For decades, the investment industry has not reflected our world’s immense diversity of people, experience, and perspectives. Unique viewpoints strengthen the investment ecosystem, unlocking new opportunities. The time for change is now—and the solution is different by design. A San Francisco-based nonprofit launched by my dear friend Eve Blossom, the Material Change Institute, enables underrepresented individuals to achieve influence in asset management. Do you share our vision for a capital ecosystem where inclusion unlocks value? If (1) you’re an underrepresented individual interested in applying to be a fellow or (2) you’re an investor interested in working with a fellow or supporting this project, then click here

Think Big

Citi Private Bank recently released their findings on the art market and discovered some incredible stats. (1) Contemporary art prices outperformed S&P returns by 174% from 1995 to 2020. (2) 86% of wealth advisors recommend art and collectibles be part of a wealth management offering. (3) The asset class had virtually no correlation to the stock market, meaning if stocks went down, art wouldn’t necessarily move in lockstep. (4) It’s estimated that more than half of ultra wealthy investors allocate at least 10% of their portfolio into art. But unless you have $10,000,000 to buy a Picasso yourself, you’ve been locked out of this exclusive asset class. That’s why I love Masterworks. They allow anyone to add contemporary art to their portfolio with top tier artists like Basquiat, Banksy, and Warhol. I’ve partnered with Masterworks to let Weekend Briefing readers skip the waitlist and join their 185,000 users with my special link. (Important disclosures apply) (Sponsored)

Artificial Intelligence Teachers

A team of Stanford researchers built an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can grade students’ work and give them appropriate feedback. This automated system points to a new future for online education, which can so easily reach thousands of people but does not always provide the guidance that many students need and crave. Dr. Finn and her team built a neural network, a mathematical system that can learn skills from vast amounts of data. By examining the way teaching assistants evaluate coding tests, it can learn to evaluate these tests on its own. The Stanford system spent hours analyzing examples from old midterms, learning from a decade of possibilities. Then it was ready to learn more. When given just a handful of extra examples from the new exam offered this spring, it could quickly grasp the task at hand. “It sees many kinds of problems,” said Mike Wu, another researcher who worked on the project. “Then it can adapt to problems it has never seen before.” This spring, the system provided 16K pieces of feedback, and students agreed with the feedback 97.9 percent of the time. New York Times (11 minutes)

Gold

Kentucky is not the first place that you would expect to find a good fencer. It might actually be the last. But when two of the best fencers on Team USA hunkered down there during the pandemic, they had a good reason for picking such a remote outpost of their sport. They weren’t just training to be Olympians. They were also training to be doctors. Gerek Meinhardt and Lee Kiefer, who also happen to be husband and wife, spent the first year of their marriage battling with swords on a basement fencing strip they built themselves between hospital rounds and medical school lectures. Kiefer was in her third year at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, which meant she was waking up at 5 a.m. and going to work during the worst days of the pandemic. She’s one of the few people in Tokyo who regrets not being able to spend more time in a hospital around COVID-19 patients. It was remarkable enough that Kiefer and Meinhardt were both medal contenders despite fencing less and studying more during an Olympic year. But then Kiefer did something that no American woman in this event that dates back to 1924 had ever done: She won the gold medal! When she got the final touch to triumph Sunday over the field’s top seed and defending Olympic champion, Kiefer ripped off her mask in celebration and screamed: “Oh my god!” She wasn’t just the first medical student on the medal stand. She was the country’s first medal winner of any kind in the history of women’s foil. Kiefer wins the pandemic, right?! Wall Street Journal (8 minutes)

The Tinder Swindler

He has seduced and swindled young women for millions and is a fugitive from justice in several countries. He finds his victims on the dating app Tinder and then seduces them with travel by private jet, luxury hotels and expensive dinners. They believe they are dating a wealthy business man, but other women he has swindled are paying for the luxury. VG has spent six months chasing the swindler across several continents. They found him in Munich—at one of Europe’s most fashionable hotels. VG (21 minutes)

Micro Habits

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day, while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. This article has 25 micro habits that can improve many areas of your life. Each action can help you build a sustainable habit over time—a consistent system that can deliver incremental results. Here are a few of my favorites: (1) Make time for a few minutes of quiet time to think about the good day ahead or prepare yourself for the day. (2) Don’t get straight to your email just yet—take the morning in (sunrise and the peace of the morning). (3) Limit the number of decisions you make in the morning. Too many decisions exhaust the brain and cause fatigue. One way to manage your energy is to do your high-priority work in the a.m. (4) When you start work, remove all distractions from your work environment before starting actual work—noise, notifications, email tabs, etc. Assume focus or productive mode with calming music. (5) Use your to-do list from the night before to start a productive day. Personal Growth (4 minutes)

Bookshelf

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the Earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it. All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company. His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance. Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation and survival to rival The Martian—while taking us to places it never dreamed of going. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

Artificial Intelligence and Faith—Amid increasing scrutiny of technology’s role in everything from policing to politics, “ethics” has become an industry safe word, but the problem is no one seems to agree on what those “ethics” are.

Bouncing Back—Americans are slowly coming out of the pandemic, but as they reemerge, there’s still a lot of trauma to process. It’s not just our families, our communities and our jobs that have changed; our brains have changed too.

Climate and Wine—The vineyards that made this Napa Valley famous—where the mix of soil, temperature patterns and rainfall used to be just right—are now surrounded by burned-out landscapes, dwindling water supplies and increasingly nervous winemakers, bracing for things to get worse.

About the Weekend Briefing

A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society by Kyle Westaway—Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose. Photo by alevision.co.

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

All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision.James Clear

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