Weekend Briefing No. 403

Welcome to the weekend.

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Prime Numbers

41Forty-one percent of Americans believe in ghosts.

1,000—Blackrock CEO Larry Fink said he thinks the next 1,000 unicorns, or start-ups worth at least $1 billion, will be involved in climate technology.

3—A metal-eating bacteria devoured a nail in three days.

Bitcoin Bears

Hedge-fund mogul John Paulson thinks cryptocurrencies are a bubble that will prove to be “worthless.” (In 2007, he was behind the “greatest trade ever” and personally made $4 billion on his short of subprime mortgages.) Michael Burry, the quirky hedge-fund manager made famous in The Big Short movie (played by Christian Bale), complains that no one is paying attention to crypto’s leverage. For months, he has been suggesting that bitcoin is on the precipice of collapse. And NYU professor Nassim Taleb, whose now-canonical book The Black Swan warned about the dangers of unpredictable events just ahead of the subprime crash, argues that bitcoin is functionally a Ponzi scheme. As economist Nouriel Roubini put it, “Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have no income or utility, so there’s just no way to arrive at a fundamental value.” He also scoffs at those who call it digital gold. “Bitcoin could disappear one day, but gold won’t.” New York Magazine (8 minutes)

Charter Cities

Many low-income countries are unable to provide effective governance for their citizens, trapped in a cycle of slow growth and persistent corruption. Charter cities may provide an answer. A charter city is a new city with a special jurisdiction that grants a wide range of autonomy. The blank legal and administrative slate allows the charter city to truly start from scratch and to build new institutions that are more responsive to residents and businesses instead of being moribund and tied to existing bureaucratic sclerosis. A well-designed charter city would have a government capable of acting, providing rule of law, public goods and effectively fighting pandemics. Works in Progress (21 minutes)

Tesla Insurance

Tesla officially launches its auto insurance using “real-time driving behavior,” starting in Texas. The insurance premiums are dynamic and will change from month-to-month depending on how safely you drive. Tesla’s safety score is based on five metrics: (1) Forward collision warnings per 1,000 miles, (2) hard braking, (3) aggressive turning, (4) unsafe following distance and (5) forced autopilot disengagement. Thus far, this insurance product is just available in Texas. Electrek (5 minutes)

Why Millennials Are Unhappy

It’s pretty straightforward—when the reality of someone’s life is better than they had expected, they’re happy. When reality turns out to be worse than the expectations, they’re unhappy. Millennials are wildly ambitious and expect much more out of life than their parents. Millennials want economic prosperity just like their parents did—they just also want to be fulfilled by their career in a way their parents didn’t think about as much. They are a bit delusional with unrealistic expectations and a strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback. A great source of frustration for people with a strong sense of entitlement is unmet expectations. Lastly, social media (what piece on Millennials would be complete without the social media angle) creates a world where A) what everyone else is doing is very out in the open, B) most people present an inflated version of their own existence and C) the people who chime in the most about their careers are usually those whose careers (or relationships) are doing the best, while struggling people tend not to broadcast their situation. This leaves Lucy feeling, incorrectly, like everyone else is doing really well, only adding to her misery. Wait But Why (12 minutes)

Q&A with Dave Grohl

This is a great interview with Dave Grohl, one of the most prolific rock stars of our time. The interview touches on everything from almost getting kicked out of Nirvana to the state of modern rock music. Here’s one of my favorite exchanges: Q: You haven’t had any major scandals in your career. How did you pull that off? A: I’ll go back to when Kurt died. The next morning, I woke up and I realized he wasn’t coming back and I was lucky to have another day. I sat and made a cup of coffee. I can have a cup of coffee today. But he can’t. I got in my car to take a drive. Beautiful day. Sun’s out. I’m experiencing this. He can’t. It was then I realized no matter how good or bad a day, I wanted to be alive to experience it. That becomes your divining rod. I just want to get to tomorrow. I just want to fucking make it one more day. Especially in—I’m not going to say “in times like these.” Vulture (17 minutes)

The Future of Music

This article offers 12 predictions for the future of music. Here are three that I particularly liked: (1) A peculiar phenomenon will emerge—listeners will have favorite new songs but not know (or care) about the name of the artist. “You’ve gotta hear this great song on my workout playlist.” (2) You become a musician in order to make money as an influencer. Side deals will increasingly be seen as more desirable than record contracts. (3) The greatest dream of the music execs will be to get out of the music business. They will try to sell NFTs or promote audiobooks or finance biopics or sell music-themed apparel or open music-themed casinos, etc. The Honest Broker (9 minutes)

Prestige Trap

Seeking out prestige is a glitch in the happiness matrix: an urge that promises contentment and delivers the opposite. To defeat it, we need to be aware of our impulses and committed to countering them. Several practices can help. (1) Start by interrogating your motivations. Pay attention to when you are seeking fame, prestige, envy or admiration—especially from strangers. Before you post on social media, for example, ask yourself what you hope to achieve with it. Is it truly to amuse or inform others, or share something uplifting? Or, are you hoping to inspire a bit of invidious comparison? (2) Understand that most people will find your bragging annoying. As Shakespeare helpfully put it, “Who knows himself a braggart / Let him fear this, for it will come to pass / that every braggart shall be found an ass.” (3) Ask yourself whether you really want to base some part of your happiness on the judgment of others, including and especially strangers. The Atlantic (7 minutes)


Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger. Bob Iger shares the lessons he learned while running Disney and leading its 220,000-plus employees, and he explores the principles that are necessary for true leadership, including: (1) Optimism. Even in the face of difficulty, an optimistic leader will find the path toward the best possible outcome and focus on that, rather than give in to pessimism and blaming. (2) Courage. Leaders have to be willing to take risks and place big bets. Fear of failure destroys creativity. (3) Decisiveness. All decisions, no matter how difficult, can be made on a timely basis. Indecisiveness is both wasteful and destructive to morale. (4) Fairness. Treat people decently, with empathy, and be accessible to them. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

Medici & Thiel—Peter Thiel has a lot of ideas. One of them, from slightly more than a decade ago, was that entrepreneurship is a viable alternative to college. 

Where to Invest $100K Right Now—Bloomberg asked financial experts where they’d invest $100K today. The response? They overwhelmingly recommended alternative assets, like art.

What’s Up with Geothermal? Fun fact: The molten core of the Earth, about 4K miles down, is roughly as hot as the surface of the sun—over 6,000°C, or 10,800°F. It’s the sun beneath our feet. So, how do we harness that energy?

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 Math.

Should We Work Together?

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Weekend Wisdom

Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity. Henry Van Dyke

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