Weekend Briefing No. 97

Weekend Briefing No. 97 | Artificial Intelligence, Paris, Nonprofits & Business, Ocean Plastic, Water’s Moonshot


Welcome to the weekend.  This week Saudi Arabia elected its first female officials. Around 20 gained seats in the country’s historic municipal elections that saw women vote for the first time. The long-awaited Fed rate hike finally happened. And, the most recent installment in the Star Wars series hit the silver screen to critical acclaim.

Here’s a playlist of my favorite Christmas songs to get you in the spirit. The first four songs are powerful. Enjoy your holiday!


Will artificial intelligence help humanity flourish? A group of prominent Silicon Valley luminaries – including Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman – hope so. They have committed $1 billion to establish OpenAI, a non-profit artificial intelligence research company. Their goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return. They believe AI should be an extension of individual human wills and, in the spirit of liberty, as broadly and evenly distributed as possible. To that end,  everything that the organization develops will be open-sourced. Learn more at OpenAI.

What actually happened in Paris? Last Saturday night, 195 countries signed a landmark deal to combat climate change. Here are some highlights:  1) An acknowledgement that a global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius is the absolute maximum the world can sustain, and that we should do everything to hold the increase to a lower number—somewhere around 1.5 degrees Celsius. 2) A nebulous agreement for developed nations to devote $100 billion to help finance developing countries’ efforts to use clean energies. 3) A universal, transparent system of measuring emissions, so that the actions countries take to adhere to the agreement can be assessed fairly. Learn more in this interactive piece from the New York Times.

You want nonprofits to act more like businesses? Then, a nonprofit professional urges you to treat them like businesses. 1) Get over overhead. If for-profits can have decent work spaces, spend on advertising and competitive salaries, why shouldn’t we also? 2) Focus on results.  Funders should focus on the results and stop micromanaging us nonprofits so we can do our jobs. 3) Accept risks and failures. If it’s OK to invest millions into companies that most often fail as a normal part of business, why do we seek to solve complex entrenched social problems, expect miracles, and get disappointed when we don’t meet outcomes? Learn more at Nonprofit With Balls. Thanks to Tracy Chou for sharing this.

What should we do with all that floating plastic? We dump around 8 million tons of plastic trash in the oceans each year, and that might quadruple in a decade. Now, as giant ocean cleanup devices start to sweep through the water in an attempt to collect some of that plastic, a handful of companies are figuring out how to use it to make new products—like shoes. In June, Adidas released a design for a new sneaker with an upper knit from ocean plastic. Now the design has gone a step further, with a midsole that’s 3-D printed from the same material. The ultimate goal is a shoe that’s 100% trash, and according to Eric Leidkte, Adidas Group executive board member of global brands, the company is almost there.. Learn more in Fast Company.

Where did all the water go? A recent report led by USA Today and the Desert Sun estimated that groundwater reserves have declined as much as 64% over the past 20 years. In response, the White House is jumpstarting a moonshot for water innovation in the hope that the private sector can find new ways to conserve and reuse this precious resource, entitled Water Resource Challenges and Opportunities for Water Technology Innovation. It offers two broad goals. First, the adminAnchoristration wants to increase water stewardship through the accelerated deployment of water reuse and efficiency technologies. And second, White House officials say they want more investment in research and development that could help scale new water technologies. Learn more in Triple Pundit.


What is diversity? This week’s episode of Startup was about how difficult it can be as a young company to be diverse, but then it took a really interesting turn toward the definition of diversity. Is it just ethnicity and gender? What about sexual orientation and religious affiliation? The conversation eventually discusses the complexity of coming out as a Christian in a liberal Brooklyn media company. Listen in on the conversation at Startup.


Get rich or die taking selfies. Can 90,000 Instagram followers make you rich? Many social media stars are too visible to have “real” jobs, but too broke not to.

Luke Skywalker was radicalized. Obi Wan put Luke on the “path to jihad,” teaching him to say prayers before committing attacks.


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.