Weekend Briefing No. 404

Welcome to the weekend.

Two weeks ago, I asked for your input on messaging for our subscription legal product at my law firm. I had way more responses than expected. Thanks for being generous with your time and giving me advice. Thanks to your input, here’s what we landed on:

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Also, here’s my November playlist.

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Prime Numbers

$700—An Atlanta woman was charged almost $700 for a visit to the ER where she remained in the waiting room for seven hours and received no treatment.

$1 billion—Companies in Florida have raised more than $1 billion in early funding so far in 2021, almost four times the total raised in 2020.

100,709—In the first quarter of 2021, the United States added 4,566 new electric vehicle chargers, raising the total number to 100,709.

Digital Scarcity

For most of human history, the main cause of suffering has been “not enough”: not enough food, not enough shelter, not enough water, not enough time. The internet and digital products enabled an abundance that we had never seen before. Copying and distributing something became costless. Digital Abundance was a huge boon but caused some problems as well (digital rights management, piracy, signal-to-noise ratio, misinformation). One of the new, unique ideas which defines web3 technology is actually digital scarcity. Using blockchains, computers can create scarcity in ways only humans have been able to reliably do before but at the near-zero cost levels of other digital media. Chris Dixon calls this “computers that can make commitments.” It’s a bit of a paradox, but the technology to create digital scarcity is going to create a new type of abundance. How can scarcity lead to abundance? We have scarcity everywhere in the analog world. Technology to create low-cost scarcity in the digital world unlocks opportunities to manage the analog world with digital tools. When we apply the best attributes of the digital world to the physical world, we get cheaper transactions, faster transactions, safer transactions, more transactions, more liquidity, less paperwork, less work and less soul-sucking, bureaucratic bullshit. We all, as a species, get more trust with less work. There are four types of digital scarcity: (1) Fungible units within a fixed cap (currency like bitcoin or the U.S. dollar) (2) Fungible units without a cap (digital copy of song, recipe, image, etc.) (3) Non-fungible units within a fixed cap (Picasso paintings, cryptopunks) (4) Non-fungible units without a cap (Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses) Eric Jorgenson. (12 minutes)

The Economics of Decarbonization

Michele Della Vigna runs the Carbonomics research program at Goldman Sachs and has an absolute wealth of knowledge about the practical steps needed to wean the world off fossil fuels. Michele and his team think that $56 trillion of global infrastructure investment will be necessary if we’re to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. That’s hard to understand in the abstract but makes more sense if you think of it in terms of global gross domestic product (GDP). In a scenario where average worldwide temperatures rise no more than 1.5°C, they think investment in decarbonization will have to peak at about 2.3% of global GDP by the mid-2030s. By 2036, in that scenario, worldwide spending on decarbonization infrastructure would have to be about $1.9 trillion a year. But for that to happen, Michele says, regulation has to be clearer: “When I look at four carbon-intensive global sectors with uncertain future regulation, energy, shipping, materials and mining, we are seeing those industries reinvesting today 40% less than they’ve done in the last decade. This is a missed opportunity to mobilize profitably this capex towards that $56 trillion opportunity. But the reason why it’s not happening is that these companies don’t know what the regulation will be for the future… They could try to go for a net-zero solution, but that’s not profitable today and may not be profitable for many years to come. In doubt, they delay the investment.” Check out this podcast interview between Michele and Azeem Azhar. Harvard Business Review (43 minutes)

The Unexpected Way Billionaires Invest

The Power Law dictates that 1% of the population holds 80% of the wealth. And they’re only getting richer—America’s billionaires saw their collective fortunes soar 70% to more than $5 trillion during the pandemic. So what are billionaires doing that we’re not? They allocate 30% of their portfolios to alternatives, like Contemporary Art. It makes sense: prices have outperformed the S&P 500 by 174% from 1995–2020. And, the global value of art is expected to grow by another $1 trillion in 2 years. With nearly every top equity firm projecting returns of less than 6% until 2035, it’s no wonder 86% of wealth managers recommend art offerings to their clients right now. Thanks to Masterworks, you can add this unexpected and potentially lucrative asset class to your portfolio in just a few clicks. As the only alternative investing fintech company valued at over $1 billion, demand is higher than ever. But Weekend Briefing Subscribers can get priority access by clicking this private link. Masterworks (Sponsored)

Time Millionaires

First named by the writer Nilanjana Roy in a 2016 column in the Financial Times, millionaires measure their worth not in terms of financial capital, but according to the seconds, minutes and hours they claw back from employment for leisure and recreation. Wealth can bring comfort and security in its wake, but I wish we were taught to place as high a value on our time as we do on our bank accounts. How you spend your hours and your days is how you spend your life. But decoupling our self-worth from the credits flowing into our bank accounts and the titles on our business cards is not always easy. Many people’s self-esteem is bound up in their work. There is that niggling doubt: Do people think I’m lazy? Our society celebrates overwork as a symptom of great moral probity. Hustle culture creeps into every part of our society. If you’re not busy or trying your hardest, you’re a lesser person somehow. The Guardian (12 minutes)

4-Hour Workweek

Tim Ferriss’s 2007 book The 4-Hour Workweek was a warning shot—an early indication that the mode of work emerging in a hyperconnected, always-on, hustling modern office had flaws. When you read The 4-Hour Workweek, there’s no way to avoid the conclusion that it’s all about the unsustainable nature of frenetic knowledge work. It pointed out that a lot of this exciting business was nonsense. If you concentrated on the efforts that actually mattered, your professional contributions could be compressed into a handful of efficiently planned weekly hours. The rest was just for show. But, maybe 15 years ago, we weren’t ready to receive that message. The pandemic has changed this reality. We’re now engaged in a national conversation about many of the same fundamental questions that Ferriss probed 15 years earlier. Rereading Ferriss’s book today, one finds that some of his points are strikingly prescient, such as his identification of remote work as being critical to giving workers more agency and freedom, and his concern that e-mail overload would become a major threat to autonomy. New Yorker (11 minutes)

Kids and Happiness

Research has found that having children decreases parents’ happiness, but the truth about what parenthood means for happiness is a lot more complicated. As often happens in psychology, although some research provided simple findings—in this case, “having children makes you unhappy”—other efforts arrived at more complicated conclusions. For one, the happiness hit is worse for some people than for others. One study finds that fathers ages 26 to 62 actually get a happiness boost, while young or single parents suffer the greatest loss. And crucially, there are geographic differences. A 2016 paper looking at the happiness levels of people with and without children in 22 countries found that the extent to which children make you happy is influenced by whether your country has child-care policies such as paid parental leave. Parents from Norway and Hungary, for instance, are happier than childless couples in those countries—but parents from Australia and Great Britain are less happy than their childless peers. The country with the greatest happiness drop after you have children? The United States. The Atlantic (7 minutes)

Sounds on Mars

For the last nine months, NASA’s Perseverance rover has been rolling around on Mars, taking photos and doing science. It’s also been recording audio of its environment with a pair of microphones. In this video, a pair of NASA scientists share some of those recordings and what we might learn about Mars from them. YouTube (3 minutes)

Bookshelf

Personal History by Katharine Graham. This is the captivating inside story of the woman who helmed the Washington Post during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of American media and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography. In this best-selling and widely acclaimed memoir, Graham, the woman who piloted the Washington Post through the scandals of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, tells her story—one that is extraordinary both for the events it encompasses and for the courage, candor and dignity of its telling. Here is the awkward child who grew up amid material wealth and emotional isolation; the young bride who watched her brilliant, charismatic husband—a confidant to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson—plunge into the mental illness that would culminate in his suicide. And here is the widow who shook off her grief and insecurity to take on a president and a pressman’s union as she entered the profane boys’ club of the newspaper business. As timely now as ever, Personal History is an exemplary record of our history and of the woman who played such a shaping role within them, discovering her own strength and sense of self as she confronted—and mastered—the personal and professional crises of her fascinating life. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

Why Millennials Are Unhappy—It’s pretty straightforward—when the reality of someone’s life is better than they expected, they’re happy.

Bitcoin Bears—Hedge fund mogul John Paulson thinks cryptocurrencies are a bubble that will prove to be “worthless.”

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.

About the Weekend Briefing

This is a Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society by Kyle Westaway—Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose. Photo by Wengang Zhai.

Should We Work Together?

This newsletter is my passion project. When I’m not writing, I run a law firm for startups. Most entrepreneurs want a trusted legal partner, but they hate surprise legal bills. At Westaway, we take care of your startup’s legal needs for a fixed-monthly fee so you can control your costs and focus on scaling your business. 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 size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.Robert Kiyosaki

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