Weekend Briefing No. 391

Welcome to the weekend. Here’s my August playlist. Enjoy!

Did your brilliant friend forward this to you? Subscribe here.

Prime Numbers

33—There are 33 percent of white-tailed deer in the Northeastern United States with antibodies against coronavirus.

6—Uber has reduced drunk driving by 6 percent.

6—A new dollar store is built every 6 minutes.

Bobos Broke America

In the year 2000, David Brooks wrote a book called Bobos in Paradise about the values of the creative class. In a new Atlantic article, he says: I got a lot wrong about the bobos. I didn’t anticipate how aggressively we would move to assert our cultural dominance, the way we would seek to impose elite values through speech and thought codes. I underestimated the way the creative class would successfully raise barriers around itself to protect its economic privilege—not just through schooling, but through zoning regulations that keep home values high, professional-certification structures that keep doctors’ and lawyers’ incomes high, while blocking competition from nurses and paralegals, and more. And I underestimated our intolerance of ideological diversity. Over the past five decades, the number of working-class and conservative voices in universities, the mainstream media and other institutions of elite culture has shrunk to a sprinkling. When you tell a large chunk of the country that their voices are not worth hearing, they are going to react badly—and they have. As these rebellions arose, pundits from the creative class settled upon certain narratives to explain why there was suddenly so much conflict across society. Our first was the open/closed narrative. Society, we argued, is dividing between those who like open trade, open immigration and open mores, on the one hand, and those who would like to close these things down, on the other. Second, and related, was the diversity narrative. Western nations are transitioning from being white-dominated to being diverse, multiracial societies. Some people welcome these changes, whereas others would like to go back to the past. Both these narratives have a lot of truth to them—racism still divides and stains America—but they ignore the role that the creative class has played in increasing inequality and social conflict. For all its talk of openness, the creative class is remarkably insular. In Social Class in the 21st Century, the sociologist Mike Savage found that the educated elite tended to be the most socially parochial group, as measured by contact with people in occupational clusters different from their own. In a study for the Atlantic, Amanda Ripley found that the most politically intolerant Americans “tend to be whiter, more highly educated, older, more urban, and more partisan themselves.” The most politically intolerant county in the country, Ripley found, is liberal Suffolk County, Massachusetts, which includes Boston. The Atlantic (24 minutes)

China Smashes Tech

Those who pay attention to business news have probably noted an interesting and curious phenomenon over the past few months: China is smashing its internet companies. China’s attack on its tech companies seems far more comprehensive than the U.S. or E.U.; it’s not just attacking the biggest internet companies, it’s attacking the entire sector. (China also appears to be reducing venture funding. If you want more competition, you don’t squash new entrants!) For whatever reason, China is suddenly not a fan of the industry we call “tech.” China’s top leaders are trying to direct the country’s industrial mix toward what they think will serve the nation as a whole. So when China’s leaders look at what kind of technologies they want the country’s engineers and entrepreneurs to be spending their effort on, they probably don’t want them spending that effort on consumer tech—apps to watch silly videos on and to buy stuff. They probably took a look at their consumer internet sector and decided that the link between that sector and geopolitical power simply became too tenuous to keep throwing capital and high-skilled labor at it. And so, in classic CCP fashion, it was time to smash. Noahpinion (12 minutes)

Is Facebook Unstoppable?

Eric Suefert, a mobile analyst, believes Facebook is unstoppable. He says Facebook will inevitably become the most important company in the lives of most people on Earth for the next 20–30 years. I don’t see any credible, extant mechanism that can constrain its growth. (1) The FTC couldn’t: Its suit was dismissed because the judge determined that it couldn’t even identify the metrics that should be used to classify Facebook as a monopoly. (2) Advertisers couldn’t: The “Facebook boycott” orchestrated by various retailers that took issue with Facebook’s handling of hate speech effectively whimpered into oblivion. It had no perceptible impact on the business. (3) Critics couldn’t do it: The cadre of Facebook critics that endlessly proclaim that mis/disinformation exists on Facebook, ad nauseam, haven’t effected any meaningful policy response. (4) Facebook also has $80 billion in current assets on its balance sheet and, more valuably, a powerful (if somewhat nebulous) vision of what it wants to become. Its ads business can fuel the war machine on the 3–5–7 year path to the metaverse. Twitter (6 minutes)

Series A Data Room

One of the most helpful tools for seed stage companies looking to raise a Series A is a thoughtful data room. Regardless of platform, there are a few standard components that every investor will want to see—a company overview, deck and financial model. There should also be data around the KPIs that you track to monitor the health and growth of the business. Absent a fulsome financial history, investors will look toward KPIs to gauge the growth prospects of the business, as well as your acumen as a founder in tracking and impacting the key drivers of the business. The data room should also have contact information, an organizational chart, and information on your team and current advisors. Eniac VC (4 minutes)

Donut Universe

In a paper recently published on the arXiv preprint server, a team of astrophysicists and cosmologists from Ulm University and the University of Lyon have studied the leftover light from the Big Bang—known as the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB—and determined that the universe may not be a flat plane, as many scientists currently believe. “The example in our paper is a donut-shaped universe model,” explained Thomas Buchert, a professor of cosmology at the University of Lyon and co-author on the new paper, in an email. This shape is also known as a three-torus, Buchert wrote, also known as a three-dimensional donut. The idea that the universe has a torus shape is at the center of some pretty far-out stuff, such as the CIA’s 1980s Gateway report on psychic phenomena. Vice (6 minutes)

Boots Theory

The “Boots Theory” comes from a simple piece of dialogue in a Terry Pratchett novel Men at Arms. The novel features a City Watch commander named Captain Samuel Vimes. The Captain is set to marry one of the richest women in the world, and he often opines about the differences between low-status and high-status spending habits. At one point in the story, the Captain ruminates: The reason that the rich were so rich was because they managed to spend less money. In reference to the Captain, the quote goes on to read: “Take boots, for example. He earned $38 a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost $50. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about $10. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles. But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford $50 had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in 10 years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent $100 on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.” This was the Captain Samuel Vimes “Boots Theory” of socioeconomic unfairness. MoneyWise (7 minutes)

Gen Z and Money

Gen Z, a generation of those born after 1996, is completely rewriting what it means to make money and invest in their futures. Gone are the days of taking jobs at summer camp or as a babysitter, squirreling away cash in a piggy bank and waiting until someday a company offers you a 401(k). This extremely online generation learned to manipulate Instagram and YouTube algorithms to get side gigs and start their own businesses. They’re at the forefront of an investing landscape dominated by day trading and meme stocks. Words like non-fungible token and Ethereum are just a natural part of their vocabulary. It makes sense that a population that grew up in the shadow of the 2007 financial crisis and has now survived the COVID-19 recession would want to write their own money rules, all while showing that they care about the environment and companies’ ethics. They’re working really hard to build wealth in new ways that feel ultra-necessary for these post-pandemic times. The hard thing? Figuring out if it will last. Money (13 minutes)

Bookshelf

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. Decades into our future, a stone’s throw from the ancient city of Shanghai, a brilliant nanotechnologist named John Percival Hackworth has just broken the rigorous moral code of his tribe, the powerful neo-Victorians. He’s made an illicit copy of a state-of-the-art interactive device called “A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer.” Commissioned by an eccentric duke for his grandchild, stolen for Hackworth’s own daughter, the “Primer’s” purpose is to educate and raise a girl capable of thinking for herself. It performs its function superbly. Unfortunately for Hackworth, his smuggled copy has fallen into the wrong hands. Young Nell and her brother Harv are thetes—members of the poor, tribeless class. Neglected by their mother, Harv looks after Nell. When he and his gang waylay a certain neo-Victorian—John Percival Hackworth—in the seamy streets of their neighborhood, Harv brings Nell something special: the primer. Following the discovery of his crime, Hackworth begins an odyssey of his own. Expelled from the neo-Victorian paradise, squeezed by agents of Protocol Enforcement on one side and a Mandarin underworld crime lord on the other, he searches for an elusive figure known as the Alchemist. His quest and Nell’s will ultimately lead them to another seeker whose fate is bound up with the primer, a woman who holds the key to a vast, subversive information network that is destined to decode and reprogram the future of humanity. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

Micro Habits—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.

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.

Metaverse—Facebook is striving to build a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi—a world known as the metaverse.

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 Zhipeng Ya.

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

The Chinese government supports Chinese companies in going global. But we believe that this process should be market-oriented, with companies being the main driver. Xi Jinping

Did your brilliant friend forward this to you? Subscribe here.