Weekend Briefing No. 67

Welcome to the Memorial Day Weekend. Hope you’re having fun kicking off summer! This week Malaysia and Indonesia decided to house 7,000 stranded Rohingya migrants from Myanmar who had been stranded at sea, the SpaceX Dragon capsule returns to Earth, ISIL took over the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra and both Don Draper and David Letterman took their final bow.


After a lot of travel, I’m happy to be home in Brooklyn, but if I was in SF, I’d definitely want to check out this conversation between Peter Theil and N.T. Wright on imagining the future, innovation, and God. Both men are brilliant.






The future of energy. Jeremey Bentham, a futurist at Shell asserts “three hard truths”: (1) That energy demand, thanks in part to booming China and India, would only rise; (2) that supply would struggle to keep up; (3) and that climate change was dangerously real. Given that he has two scenarios for the future. The Scramble envisions a future in which countries fail to do much of anything to reduce emissions and instead race to secure oil and coal deposits. Only when climatic chaos breaks out does society take it seriously, and by then great damage has already been done. Blueprints envisions a future where green energy and a swiftly rising price on carbon emissions allows the world to come together and remake its energy systems. In this scenario, there is still far more warming than society can easily bear — approaching 7 degrees Fahrenheit — but the world still averts the very worst of climate change. Which scenario do you think is more likely? Read more in the New York Times.


Uber in Nairobi. As Uber is making a huge bid for international expansion, it is beginning to enter cities in developing markets, including Nairobi. In Nairobi, their barriers to entry aren’t regulatory or the cartel of taxis, but competitors Easy Taxi and Maramoja who are offering similar services. But the real challenge for this business model in Nairobi is trust. While I was living there nobody would jump in a random taxi (nor do drivers want to pick up random clients at night). Everybody has a driver or two that they build a relationship with. Uber (and their competitors) may flounder in the developing markets because security trumps convenience. Read my friend Heidi Vogt’s piece on this in the Wall Street Journal.


How machines destroy and create jobs in 4 graphs. In the first part of the 20th century, agricultural technology — the tractor, chemical fertilizers — meant a single farmer could suddenly grow much more food. So we didn’t need as many farmers. Technology destroyed a huge number of farming jobs. But that technology also made food cheaper, so people had more money to spend on other things, like TVs and radios and newly invented appliances. Factory jobs boomed. Other sectors grew as well; the midcentury economy had lots of mid-skill white-collar jobs like secretary and bookkeeper. Check out these 4 graphs from Planet Money to see which industries are gaining and losing jobs due to the machines.


Humility: the No.1 job skill needed in the machine age. Even the workers that don’t have their jobs taken by the machines will find themselves working alongside machines. So how do we thrive in this new world? If all the rote work is done by machines, us humans will need to work hard to develop critical thinking, innovative thinking and high emotional and social intelligence capabilities, because technology will be unable to replicate those skills for the near future. Humility, which enables more open-mindedness, better reflective listening, and more effective collaboration is the basic building block that enables high proficiencies in those skills. Learn more in this Forbes article. Thanks to Hang Nguyen for sharing this with me.


Online diploma mill. Axact, a software company out of Karachi Pakistan, is running a network of 12 online universities that amount to nothing more than sites to buy diplomas. Apparently, many customers – in the US and developing countries – hoping to secure a promotion or pad their résumé, are aware that they are buying the educational equivalent of a knockoff Rolex. The degrees aren’t cheap, one nurse at a large hospital in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, admitted to spending $60,000 on an Axact-issued medical degree to secure a promotion. For all the opportunity that online education provides, there is also a massive opportunity for fraud. Learn more in this New York Times article.






Coffee is a thing I like, but it seems like every year there’s a study on the positive or negative health effects. This Upshot article helps you sort through all of that in one go. The headline is that 3-5 cups of black coffee a day is good for you. However, in case you’re wondering, it turns out that the Cold Stone Creamery Gotta-Have-It-Sized Lotta Caramel Latte (1,790 calories, 90 grams of fat, 223 grams of carbs) is not that good for you.


Jay-Z’s artist-led social network could revive the value of music. What Jay-Z is trying to do is build a community around the music—with the artist at the heart of it. You can see this in Tidal’s posting of exclusives like an acoustic Jack White concert and new Beyoncé songs.






There’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it. – Steve Jobs





The Weekend Briefing is a selection of this week’s top stories on innovation and society, curated by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway Law. I consider it a privilege to be a part of your weekend routine. Thanks.