Weekend Briefing No. 406

Welcome to the weekend.

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Prime Numbers

122.9 million—Taylor Swift re-releases her Red album and breaks two Spotify records, including most-streamed woman, with 122.9 million streams in a single day. Then, Swift re-recorded the album after her former record label sold her original masters.

4.4 million—An estimated 4.4 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs in the month of September. The percentage of resignations relative to total employment hit 3%, the highest on record.

17—Engineers demonstrate production of organic solar cells without the use of toxic chemicals. With efficiencies of 17%, these solar cells are more than three times greater than comparable cells.

Nature & Mental Health

More evidence suggests that nature does something essential for our mental health. Specifically, we have learned that nature tends to result in reduced circulating levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, lowered blood pressure, blunted “perceived stress” after stressful life events, and lower short-term levels of anxiety and depression. We also appear to ruminate less after we’ve spent time in nature, a phenomenon distinct enough to appear as differences in neural activity during brain scans. One recent study selected 541 vacant lots across the city of Philadelphia and randomly allocated each to either receive no intervention; receive regular trash removal and mowing; or be turned into open pocket parks, with trees and a pleasant, short wooden-perimeter fence. Survey teams blind to the intervention were sent out to question residents at random before and after the great experiment, eventually interviewing nearly 450 people about their mental health. When the study was complete, its architects found that residents of neighborhoods where lots had been greened were much healthier psychologically than those whose lots had merely been cleaned. Around greened lots, neighborhood-level rates of feeling “depressed” dropped by 42%, feeling “worthless” by 51% and having generally “poor mental health” by 63 percent. Outside (12 minutes)

Deep Sleep

If you’ve been reading the Weekend Briefing for a while, you know that I have a couple pet topics: (1) Bees. I love bees for so many reasons. (2) Sleep. I think most people underrate the importance of sleep. Today I want to talk sleep. Lack of sleep affects our temperament, relationships and performance at work. Did you know that if you sleep less than six hours per night for three nights in a row, your judgement becomes impaired just like you’re drunk? It’s true. I recently found a new music project that helps us sleep called Slowave. Dr. Keith Sigel and drummer/composer Mason Ingram are Slowave. They’ve been friends and bandmates for more than a decade, playing every indie dive bar in New York. Once Kieth had a kid (and experiencing the subsequent loss of sleep), he turned his research toward the effects of music on the quality of sleep. After sharing his findings with Mason, the two decided to use the data to create a sonic landscape that leads to deep peaceful sleep. As a new dad, I totally relate. I’ve been using it for naps and going to sleep at night. It’s pretty amazing how easily I slip into sleep and how refreshed I feel when I wake up even from a 20-minute nap. They just released a new album. Check it out. Slowave (30 minutes)

From Bitcoin to Art

Hedge Fund Managers Started Hoarding Bitcoin at $497.95. We don’t need to tell you what happened next. Now they’re pouring billions into what the WSJ describes as “among the hottest markets on Earth.” What do they know that you don’t? Here’s the breakdown: (1) Contemporary art prices outperformed S&P 500 returns by 174% from 1995–2020. (2) The art market is projected to grow by $900 billion by 2026. (3) Billionaires allocate 10–30% of their overall portfolio to art, on average. But unless you have $50 million to buy Picassos and Banksies, you’ve been locked out of this under-the-radar investment. Until now. Masterworks lets you invest in art via fractional shares similar to a public company. With over 260,000 users, Masterworks is the only alternative investing platform valued at over $1 billion. Weekend Briefing readers can get in before the rush and skip their 35,000 person waitlist with this special link. Masterworks (Sponsored)

3D Printed Affordable Housing

In a tiny village on the outskirts of Nacajuca, Mexico, builders are creating new homes using a novel tool: an oversize 3D printer. The homes, designed for the unhoused, are sleek and 500 square feet. They include two bedrooms, a finished kitchen and bath, and indoor plumbing. To build the homes, the printer pours layers of lavacrete, a proprietary concrete mix, one after another in long swirls. One home can be completed in less than 24 hours. The homes can nonetheless tolerate extreme conditions and have already withstood a magnitude 7.4 earthquake. And now, the era of the 3D printed community has arrived. 500 homes are being built by New Story, a San Francisco nonprofit organization focused on providing housing solutions to communities in extreme poverty, in partnership with Échale, a social housing production company in Mexico, and Icon, a construction technology company in Austin, Texas. When New Story broke ground on the village in 2019, it was called the world’s first community of 3D printed homes. Two years and a pandemic later, 200 homes either are under construction or have been completed. New York Times (11 minutes)

Meta & Microsoft

Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, on Wednesday announced a partnership with Microsoft that will allow customers to integrate Meta’s Workplace enterprise social network software with Microsoft Teams. The integration gives customers access to Workplace content inside the Teams app. Likewise, users can view Teams video meetings in the Workplace app. The partnership between Meta and Microsoft brings together two rivals that compete in the enterprise communication software market. Workplace and Teams, however, do not have complete overlap. Whereas Workplace is focused on broad, companywide connections, Teams is focused on instantaneous communication between workers and their direct colleagues. This integration had been requested by customers, including Vodafone and Accenture. CNBC (5 minutes)

Making Friends

Starting a remote job can be hard, but many people have found new ways to forge work friendships during the pandemic. There’s no longer a proverbial water cooler to generate casual encounters, and some younger workers have never had a physical office at all. But they’ve overcome the awkwardness of the digital chat box to initiate meaningful, if often distanced, friendships. Some online work friends have even found success taking their hangouts offline once the vaccine rollout made socializing and travel easier. For companies that are more comfortable with extended in-person socializing, a dedicated off-site location can help cement many of the virtual friendships that arose between employees during the pandemic. Of course, remote-work friendships typically take more effort and resources (the company sponsored off-site locations) and initiative (the office party planner). Though work friendships may not seem essential. Over time, the divergence between those who master this new kind of high-effort socializing and those who don’t may negatively affect the second group’s career progression. Wall Street Journal (8 minutes)

The Ultimate Ski Run

The Ultimate Run is a video of the best ski run ever. It kicks off on the lofty extremities of Zermatt as Markus Eder drops into a sheer expanse of powder, before shredding his way through glacial blocks the size of buses, jumping off ice cliffs and then slips into the belly of the glacier, only to reappear above his home resort of Klausberg. Carving fields of fresh powder, he joins a session with his buddies at his local snow park, before boosting back off into the backcountry. The firecrackers keep on popping as he enters the snow-covered architecture of Taufer castle and a mining museum. As the sun sets over the mountains, Markus slides out onto the valley floor, six years of dream skiing condensed into 10 minutes of pure joy and adrenaline. With the first snow falling in the Alps, The Ultimate Run is a must watch for all winter sports enthusiasts. It will reignite the passion for winter in even the most laid-back snow fans for the coming season. YouTube (10 minutes)

Bookshelf

The House of Morgan by Ron Chernow. Published to critical acclaim 20 years ago and now considered a classic, The House of Morgan is the most ambitious history ever written about American finance. It is a rich, panoramic story of four generations of Morgans and the powerful, secretive firms they spawned, ones that would transform the modern financial world. Tracing the trajectory of J. P. Morgan’s empire from its obscure beginnings in Victorian London to the financial crisis of 1987, acclaimed author Ron Chernow paints a fascinating portrait of the family’s private saga and the rarefied world of the American and British elite in which they moved—a world that included Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Franklin Roosevelt, Nancy Astor and Winston Churchill. A masterpiece of financial history, it was awarded the “1990 National Book Award for Nonfiction” and selected by the Modern Library as one of the “100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century.” The House of Morgan is a compelling account of a remarkable institution and the men who ran it, and an essential book for understanding the money and power behind the major historical events of the last 150 years. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

Language/Market Fit—Language/Market Fit (LMF) is when you find the exact right words to explain your product or service to prospective customers, words that resonate with goals and struggles that are already in their brains.

McDonald’s and Artificial Intelligence—In the near future, you could order your Big Mac from a bot. Or maybe you already have.

Decentralized Autonomous Organizations and Governance—One of the most immediate challenges facing non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and decentralized finance (DeFi) communities is to figure out governance, the act of managing collective decision-making in order to optimize funds and operations.

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 David Clode.

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Weekend Wisdom

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.Khalil Gibran

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