Weekend Briefing No. 190
Welcome to the weekend. Happy Saturday from your friendly email guy.
71,000,000 – The new undersea internet link stretches 4,100 miles between Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Bilbao, Spain. It can stream 71 million HD videos simultaneously. Known as Marea, it was laid as a joint venture between Microsoft, Facebook, and telco infrastructure firm Telxius, it will enter operation in 2018.
280 – Twitter is raising its character limit from 140 to 280 characters.
30 – U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) put out a new report showing solar photovoltaic system prices falling roughly 30% in only one year to an average price of $1.03 per watt.
To Mars and Beyond
Sometimes I feel like the Weekend Briefing is just Elon Musk’s PR arm, but he is the most visionary CEO out there right now, so… here we go again. Musk announced this week that he will be sending people to Mars by 2024, and oh, by the way… he’s also going to make flying from one point to another on Earth in under an hour, but most routes will be around 30 minutes (NYC > PVG: 39 minutes, NYC > LHR 27 minutes). The biggest challenge has been affordability. The solution is to refocus SpaceX to work on just one reusable type of vehicle - known as the BFR - which could do all of the firm's current work (supporting space stations and launching satellites), send people and cargo to the Moon and Mars as well as service long-haul flights on Earth. BBC (5 minutes)
Dutch farmer Jacob van den Borne is seated in his perch 10 feet above the ground monitoring two drones—a driverless tractor roaming the fields and a quadcopter in the air—that provide detailed readings on soil chemistry, water content, nutrients, and growth, measuring the progress of every plant down to the individual potato. Van den Borne’s production numbers testify to the power of this “precision farming,” as it’s known. The global average yield of potatoes per acre is about nine tons. Van den Borne’s fields reliably produce more than 20. That copious output is made all the more remarkable by the other side of the balance sheet: inputs. Almost two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry “Twice as much food using half as many resources.” Since 2000, van den Borne and many of his fellow farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 percent. They’ve almost completely eliminated the use of chemical pesticides on plants in greenhouses, and since 2009 Dutch poultry and livestock producers have cut their use of antibiotics by as much as 60 percent. National Geographic (9 minutes)
Building a successful and socially responsible fashion brand is no small task. My friends at Apolis have been doing it for over a decade. Their signature project is a partnership with Saidpur Enterprises to produce the jute market bag. The factory uses locally sourced jute fiber, pays its employees (mostly women) a fair wage, provides an annual profit share to employees as well as a retirement plan (unheard of in the garment industry). The bag’s success, over 180,000 bags sold, has transformed the lives of the women who produce them as well as drives substantial revenue for Apolis; a clear example of profit & purpose. “We believe in patient, profitable brand-building, in order to be sustainable for many years to come, providing jobs for individuals like the moms behind our market bags,” Apolis co-founder Shea Parton notes. You can learn more and check out a short film featuring Saidpur Enterprises at Forbes (7 minutes)
In China, a robo-dentist has autonomously implanted two new 3-D-printed teeth into a woman’s mouth. The procedure, which appears to have made use of a robot arm from Universal Robotics, was developed by a team from the Fourth Military Medical University and Beihang University. The hardware first orients itself with the patient's head, and is then programmed with the procedure it needs to undertake. The robot works to tolerances of less than 0.3 millimeters, and it can detect and compensate for movements of the patient's head. Chinese leadership hopes the robot will be able to make up for a shortfall in the number of practicing dentists in China, which often leads to unqualified practitioners performing questionable procedures. South China Morning Post (5 minutes)
40 is the New 70
Here’s a shocker: an analysis of 330,000 employees from 43 U.S. enterprises has proven that ageism definitely exists in tech. But “ageism” probably isn’t what you think it is. The term is typically associated with baby boomers — but now, in the tech biz, it’s being applied to an even younger crowd: Gen Xers. Google refers to employees over 40 as “Greyglers”. The average age at Facebook is 28, at Google it’s 30, and at Apple it’s 31. Ironically, workers over the age of 40 are more likely to receive top performance ratings as they age, mature, and gain experience (AKA, the “Tech Sage Age”). Yet, techsters in their 40’s are still hired 33% less than their workforce representation. The Hustle (2 minutes)
Tinder & Your Data
One woman asked Tinder for her data. Shockingly, what she received was 800 pages worth of data. Beyond transcripts of all the messages she exchanged, Tinder sent her what’s known as the secondary implicit data including: Facebook “likes”, photos from Instagram (even though the associated account was deleted), it knows how often you connect and at which times; the percentage of white men, black men, Asian men you have matched; which kinds of people are interested in you; which words you use the most; how much time people spend on your picture before swiping you, and so on. Personal data is the fuel of the economy. Consumers’ data is being traded and transacted for the purpose of advertising. We are leaning towards a more and more opaque society, towards an even more intangible world where data collected about you will decide even larger facets of your life. Eventually, your whole existence will be affected. The Guardian (7 minutes)
Consistency > Talent
Consistency will make you feel like a loser. All the time you’ll spend working, trying, failing, trying again, failing again, laboring in obscurity will make you feel inadequate. (I know this feeling well.) There are so many people in the world that are so much more talented than you. They’re sexier. Smarter. Richer. More creative. More likable, more charming, better-connected, and better-looking. But there is one, singular thing you can do better than them: you can outwork them. Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. So, if you are laboring in obscurity on something meaningful to you, take heart and keep showing up. Medium (9 minutes)
From the Community
Dana Brakman Reiser just launched a new book titled Social Enterprise Law: Trust, Public Benefit and Capital Markets.
About the Weekend Briefing
Thanks for making the Weekend Briefing a part of your weekend routine. If you like what you’re reading, I’d be honored if you share it with your friends. Have a restful and thoughtful weekend