Weekend Briefing No. 393

Welcome to the weekend.

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Prime Numbers

3.1 billion—California’s production of almonds rose from 370 million pounds in 1995 to 3.1 billion pounds in 2020, and that may be a high water mark given California’s slip into a low water mark.

315—Benjamin Moore has 152 shades of off-white paints, Behr has 167 and PPG’s got 315.

30—A typo in a neutral email lowers your perceived intelligence by 30 percent. But typos in emotion-filled notes amplify perceived emotion. People take a typo in an angry email as meaning you are too overcome with fury to type well!

AI Inventor

At first glance, a recently granted South African patent relating to a “food container based on fractal geometry” seems fairly mundane. The innovation in question involves interlocking food containers that are easy for robots to grasp and stack. On closer inspection, the patent is anything but mundane. That’s because the inventor is not a human being—it is an artificial intelligence (AI) system called DABUS. The granting of the DABUS patent in South Africa has received widespread backlash from intellectual property experts. The critics argued that it was the incorrect decision in law, as AI lacks the necessary legal standing to qualify as an inventor. Quartz (6 minutes)

Justice Deferred

In 2018 I met Robert Jones in New Orleans on a trip organized by Telos. Robert was wrongfully convicted and served 23 and a half years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, a former plantation where many inmates are required to pick cotton for pennies an hour. Robert educated himself and became a legal advocate while in prison, advocating for himself and eventually being helped by the Innocence Project of New Orleans. He was exonerated in January 2017 and went on to co-found the youth mentorship nonprofit Free-Dem Foundation with another exoneree Jerome Morgan, whom he met at Angola. Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams agreed Monday to settle a wrongful conviction lawsuit filed by a freed Angola lifer for $2 million, the latest step toward wrapping up lingering misconduct claims from earlier administrations. After the settlement was announced, Robert told reporters “I welcome this measure of justice after so many years.” I’m so happy to see justice for Robert. Nola (6 minutes)

#clientbrag

When our client Yoko Sen, a U.S.-based Japanese artist, fell ill in 2012 and had to spend weeks in hospitals, she found the jarring sounds there detrimental to her healing. “I thought it was torture, the cacophony of alarms, beeps, doors slamming, the squeaking of carts, people screaming, yellow alarm, red alarm, Code Blue.” At the time, it wasn’t clear if Sen would make a full recovery. When Sen recovered, she was determined to follow her new mission: to “humanize” hospital sounds. How does healing sound? Or love? Are there tunes that foster recovery? She founded SenSound in 2015, a social enterprise to reimagine the acoustic environment in hospitals. Over the last year, she’s worked with Philips, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of medical equipment to change the sounds of their most popular patient monitor. As this equipment rolls into hospitals, her hard work will make patients’ experience a more soothing and healing environment. Our law firm has been proud to support Yoko’s work by negotiating contracts with Phillips, as well as other major device manufacturers. Reasons to be Cheerful (8 minutes)

Invisibility

What if you could become invisible to mosquitoes? For the first time, scientists have used the gene-editing tool Crispr-Cas9 to render humans effectively invisible in the eyes of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which use dark visual cues to hunt, according to a paper recently published in the journal Current Biology. By eliminating two of that mosquito’s light-sensing receptors, the researchers knocked out its ability to visually target hosts. New York Times (9 minutes)

Plant-Based Tuna

We’ve seen a lot of innovation in plant-based beef, but what about seafood? Food tech startup Kuleana has worked with world-renowned chefs and R&D experts to create a 100% plant-based tuna. The product is developed in a way to replicate the taste and texture of traditional tuna. The tuna is made from radish, algae and bamboo fiber, and contains omega-3 DHA, iron and vitamin B12. The cholesterol-free food has less than 0.5% of saturated fat. Compared to a traditional tuna fillet, 100 grams of Kuleana tuna holds 5 grams of total fat.  You can now taste it at 40 Poke Bar restaurants across North America. Their priority is to serve delicious plant-based tuna that doesn’t sacrifice when it comes to environmental and social responsibility, and is of course an uncompromisingly delicious culinary experience. The co-founder said, “We are really concerned about how we’ve been treating our oceans, from plastic pollution to crude fishing methods that unnecessarily kill many animals as bycatch or through habitat destruction. We were specifically drawn to Blue Fin tuna, as it is often a critically endangered species, and an important contribution to the marine ecosystem as an apex predator.” Green Queen (3 minutes)

Giving a TED Talk

Ever wonder what it’s like to give a TED Talk? Tim Urban from Wait But Why gives a behind-the-scenes view of his experience, mostly the stress of procrastinating. It’s a harrowing tale but really helpful for anybody that’s giving a big talk. In his meandering narrative, he talks about three levels of preparedness: (1) Wing it. At the cockiest end of the spectrum, you have the option of completely winging it. This involves no planning—you just get up there and figure out what you want to say once you’re talking. You be yourself and let the moment carry you. (2) Talk through a set structure. Here, you have a clear structure in your head or a list of bullet points on a notecard, and then you simply talk through it. But importantly, you haven’t scripted sentences exactly. (3) Follow an exact script. Here, on the other extreme end of the spectrum, you write the exact script of the talk ahead of time and deliver the talk on script, word for word. Some people might immediately assume this method will make a talk impersonal and robotic, but it’s more complicated than that—the exact script method has its own spectrum: (3A) Read off script. This is simple: You write a script, and the talk is you reading it out loud. During the talk, you’re just acting as the messenger. (3B) Just barely memorized. A paperless 3B speaker won’t come off much different than a 3A speaker. The 3B speaker isn’t technically reading off of a script, but he might as well be. Because his memorization of the script is fragile, his mind isn’t focused on the content of what he’s saying. (3C) Happy-Birthday level memorized. The lyrics to Happy Birthday aren’t coming out of your conscious mind—they’re coming out of your subconscious. They’re coming out automatically, and your conscious mind can focus entirely on other things while you’re singing. That’s how well-memorized 3C is. The people at TED refer to two tests you need to pass to qualify as Happy-Birthday-level memorized: (i) If you record yourself saying the talk and play it back at 2x speed, can you say it out loud while it’s playing and stay ahead of the recording? (ii) Can you recite the talk with no problem while simultaneously doing an unrelated task that requires attention, like following a recipe and measuring out the ingredients into a bowl? Wait But Why (21 minutes)

Scenic Views

Just for fun, here are the 24 most scenic places to camp in the United States. Travel + Leisure (8 minutes)

Bookshelf

King of the Vagabonds by Neal Stephenson. A chronicle of the breathtaking exploits of “Half-Cocked Jack” Shaftoe—London street urchin turned legendary swashbuckling adventurer—risking life and limb for fortune and love while slowly maddening from the pox—and Eliza, rescued by Jack from a Turkish harem to become spy, confidante and pawn of royals in order to reinvent a contentious continent through the newborn power of finance. The Baroque Cycle, Neal Stephenson’s award-winning series, spans the late 17th and early 18th centuries, combining history, adventure, science, invention, piracy and alchemy into one sweeping tale. It is a gloriously rich, entertaining and endlessly inventive historical epic populated by the likes of Isaac Newton, William of Orange, Benjamin Franklin and King Louis XIV, along with some of the most inventive literary characters in modern fiction. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

Revolutionary—This is the story behind the hype and the subsequent flop of the Segway.

Bamboo Ceiling in Silicon Valley—Many Asian Americans in tech, especially women, face subtle yet ever-present discrimination.

Carbon Capture—One promising carbon capture approach turns the gas into an ordinary mineral through entirely natural processes.

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 JL Lacar.

Should We Work Together?

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Weekend Wisdom

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.Henry David Thoreau

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