Weekend Briefing No. 84

Weekend Briefing No. 84 | Innovation By Design, The Woman Leading Patagonia, Computer Science in NY Schools, Human v. Artificial Intelligence, Impact Investing 101

Welcome to the weekend. This week, Syrians continue to flood into Europe and one Egyptian billionaire is trying to buy an island to house and employ 100,000 of them. California declared a state of emergency. Wild fires ravaged more than 100,000 acres in the northern part of the state, forcing the evacuation of 20,000 residents, and the Republicans held a presidential debate.


2015 Innovation By Design Awards. From fixing our ailing oceans to offering internet access in remote communities, Fast Company ranks the most innovative designs for social good. My favorite is Outernet – a new technology that would provide fast, free internet to isolated parts of the world via an incredibly durable satellite receiver engineered to fold like a vegetable steamer into a small footprint 14″ in diameter. See the list at Fast Company.

The woman leading Patagonia. When Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, speaks of their new CEO, Rose Marcario, he says, “Rose understands business better than I ever did, and she understands the need for revolution. She’s the one who’s going to lead us there.” Patagonia is on track to have the most profitable year in its history in 2015, with expected sales reaching $750 million. All told, the compound annual growth rate since the year after Marcario joined the company has been 14%, and profits have more than tripled since her arrival. She’s also leading the industry toward radically sustainable manufacturing practices. So, who is this woman? Find out in this Fortune profile.

SPONSORED BRIEFING // Paradox of choice. We tend to think that more choice leads to better outcomes. However, as professor Barry Schwartz points out in his TED Talk, The Paradox of Choice, too many options overwhelm us and our ability to make sound decisions is drastically reduced. In the mattress industry, Leesa is one company set on remedying this by offering one mattress model to please 95% of sleepers. Read more about the streamlining of the mattress industry at The Washington Post.

As a special offer for Weekend Briefing readers, Leesa is offering $75 off the purchase of a mattress.

Computer science in NYC public schools. This week Mayor De Blasio announced that within 10 years, all of the city’s public schools will be required to offer computer science to all students. Since tech jobs in New York City grew 57% from 2007 to 2014, the mayor is acknowledging that students need to be better prepared for these jobs. Additionally, the investment in NY public schools should yield a more diverse tech sector. The 10-year program will cost $81 million and will be funded by a mix of public and private investment. Learn more in the New York Times.

Human v. artificial intelligence. In a recent poll, machine intelligence experts predicted that computers would gain human-level ability around the year 2050, and superhuman ability less than 30 years after. However, given the potential of genetic editing tools like Crispr, human cognitive capacity will likely be increasing as well, eventually producing humans with the IQ of 1,000. So, will AI or genetic modification have the greater impact in the year 2050? The answer is both. We will likely experience a positive feedback loop: Better human minds invent better machine learning methods, which in turn accelerate our ability to improve human DNA and create even better minds. Learn more in this piece in Nautilus.

Impact investing 101. Impact investing represents a significant opportunity to bring the innovation, incentives, and resources from business to the social sector, but it’s still a very young movement. We need better data on the financial and social returns that are possible; better stories to inspire investors and entrepreneurs; and more clarity on what we mean when we say “impact.” The Case Foundation has put their vision forward in this Short Guide to Impact Investing.


Facebook’s “dislike” button is going to be a disaster. A thumbs-down option will lead to more passive aggression and interpersonal conflict.

A Migrant’s Journey: 1 Week, 30,000 People, 2,500 Miles in 1 photo essay.


“The bullet of your thought must have overcome its lateral and ricochet motion and fallen into its last and steady course before it reaches the ear of the hearer, else it may plough out again through the side of his head.” – Henry David Thoreau


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.