Weekend Briefing No. 380
Welcome to the weekend. Hello from Portland Maine! It’s really nice to travel post-vaccination.
Every week, I work hard to make the Weekend Briefing just a little bit better. To that end, I’ve got a favor to ask. Can you give me some advice on the Weekend Briefing? I’d love to learn more about you, what you like and don’t like about the briefing. It would mean a lot to me if you could take 90 seconds right now to give me your opinion. I’ve put together 14 questions. Twelve of the questions are multiple choice, so it should be quick. Your feedback will help shape the future of the Weekend Briefing. Thanks.
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37 million—More than 37 million Americans are expected to travel during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. That’s a 60% increase from last year when only 23 million traveled.
4,200—A peer-reviewed statistical analysis of the Apple/Google Bluetooth COVID-19 contract tracing system in the U.K. saved 4,200–8,700 lives.
32.5—In Prague, there is a 32.5 meter Lego tower, which may be the tallest Lego tower ever.
Following the Brain Computer Interface (BCI) news from last week, a paralyzed man is challenging Neuralink’s monkey to a match of mind Pong. Yes, you read that correctly. A man with a brain implant that allows him to control computers via mental signals says he is ready to challenge Elon Musk’s neuroscience company Neuralink in a head-to-head game of Pong—with a monkey. Um, what? Neuralink is developing advanced wireless brain implants so humans can connect directly to computer networks. In April, researchers working with the company showed off videos of a rhesus monkey named Pager who can play the classic paddle game using thought signals. The company’s monkey MindPong video delighted Musk acolytes. But Nathan Copeland, a severely paralyzed man who six years ago received a different type of implant that he regularly uses to play video games, saw it and decided to challenge the monkey to the first “interspecies battle” in Pong. MIT Technology Review (7 minutes)
Yes, then No
Say “yes” until you have to say “no.” Early in your career, you need to jump into every opportunity you can get, so you say “yes” to everything—even the things that seem kinda dumb or pointless or weird or inconvenient. You say “yes” and do them anyway because you never know what doors they will open. Then, as you start building your skills and reputation, you begin to find yourself in situations where you have more opportunities than you need. This is when you begin to strategically start saying “no.” By saying “no,” you’re able to focus on the opportunities that present the biggest upside and you get even further, faster. Eventually, you arrive at a point where you are forced to say “no” to almost every opportunity. Congratulations! You have now “made it.” The “say yes until you have to say no” principle doesn’t just work in business, but in many areas of life: If you move to a new city and want to make friends, say “yes” to everything until you’re so popular you can start saying no to invitations to the lamer parties. Do you have an online dating profile? Say “yes” to meeting everyone until you find people you like enough to swipe left and say “no.” If you’re trying to figure out what you’re good at or what you love to do, say “yes” to everything until you’re forced to start saying “no.” Eventually, you’ll be left with what matters most to you. Mark Manson (6 minutes)
How Wokeness Ends
David Brooks wrote an interesting opinion piece entitled “How Wokeness Ends,” which basically makes the argument that once mainstream Corporate America co-opts a movement, it dilutes it. Thus “wokeness” will end not in a bang, but in a whimper. I was going to run that story in this section, but then my editor Shamontiel L. Vaughn read it and it irritated her enough to write a response piece. I thought her response was better than the original piece. So, I wanted to share her piece instead. She says, “By the time I got to the end of the NYT post, I was trying my damnedest not to be irritated. Although not intentional, the post is draining to read — and the truth hurts. Truth be told, white people can stop participating in every single Black Lives Matter march or Stop Asian Hate march or native or Latino cause and go back to life as usual. They’re doing it voluntarily; people of color are doing it to figure out how to survive. The purpose behind wokeness will never die out for POCs and black people. The whole time I read the post about Corporate America, intersectionality, patriarchy and diversity in the workplace, I kept thinking one thing: ‘I still wake up black — even when you lose interest.’” I Do See Color (4 minutes)
How did Aclima, a company that measures and analyzes air pollution, blend profit and purpose? Prior to their Series B, they converted to a public benefit corporation (PBC). When CEO Davida Herzl was gearing up to raise Aclima’s Series B, she knew she would be bringing on new investors that she didn’t know. She wanted to make sure that her investors were aligned with the company’s mission, so she used conversion to a PBC to filter out investors who weren’t on board. She says, “We wanted to protect the company and tell investors, ‘you’re signing on to this transition [to a Public Benefit Corporation]. If you’re not comfortable, don’t sign on. If you want to be part of redefining how tech is built to deliver on the promise of those capabilities, you are welcome.’” The transition wasn’t simple. In addition to re-filing the company’s letters of incorporation with the state of Delaware, Davida had to educate the board. Many had questions related to the impact on the company’s exit: Were PBCs valued in the same way as C-corps at IPO? Davida and her team cited the extensive data, showing that public market investors want their investments to deliver on environmental, social and governance dimensions of performance, not just on financial performance. Davida estimated that PBC-related questions added 30 minutes to every diligence meeting with new investors but felt it was worth the time. Herzl believes that Aclima’s new legal structure is an asset to its business, too. Many of its customers are governments who are mandated to deliver public benefits. Aclima can now credibly speak to mission parity, which gives them a competitive advantage in the sales process. Startups & Society Initiative (5 minutes)
What is Cheugy? Out of touch? Basic? It’s a new term to describe a certain aesthetic is gaining popularity on TikTok. Cheugy describes “the type of people who get married at 20 years old” or have millennial “girlboss energy.” It’s just the latest in a long line of niche identifiers that have gained traction on the internet, where people relentlessly categorize highly specific archetypes in starter pack memes and videos. It’s not quite “basic,” which can describe someone who is a conformist or perhaps generic in their tastes, and it’s not quite “uncool.” It’s not embarrassing or even always negative. Cheugy (pronounced chew-gee) can be used, broadly, to describe someone who is out of date or trying too hard. And while a lot of cheugy things are associated with millennial women, the term can be applied to anyone of any gender and any age. It’s no coincidence that cheugy gained traction on TikTok, a platform that has functioned as an escape from Instagram’s once dominant aesthetic, which is the pinnacle of cheugy. New York Times (7 minutes)
Anyone who has studied the history of ideas, and especially the history of science, knows that's how big things start. Someone proposes an idea that sounds crazy, most people dismiss it, then it gradually takes over the world. Most implausible-sounding ideas are in fact bad and could be safely dismissed. But not when they're proposed by reasonable domain experts. If the person proposing the idea is reasonable, then they know how implausible it sounds. And yet they're proposing it anyway. That suggests they know something you don't. And if they have deep domain expertise, that's probably the source of it. Such ideas are not merely unsafe to dismiss, but disproportionately likely to be interesting. When the average person proposes an implausible-sounding idea, its implausibility is evidence of their incompetence. But when a reasonable domain expert does it, the situation is reversed. There's something like an efficient market here: On average, the ideas that seem craziest will, if correct, have the biggest effect. So if you can eliminate the theory that the person proposing an implausible-sounding idea is incompetent, its implausibility switches from evidence that it's boring to evidence that it's exciting. Having new ideas is a lonely business. Only those who've tried it know how lonely it is. These people need your help. And if you help them, you'll probably learn something in the process. Paul Graham (9 minutes)
This interview of U.S. Navy pilots discussing Unidentified Ariel Phenomenon (UAP), commonly known as UFOs, is the most factual compelling evidence I’ve seen that there may be some extraterrestrial activity off the East and West Coast of the United States. The U.S. military has observed some sort of technology that can pull 600–700 G Forces; fly at 13,000 miles per hour; evade radar; and seemingly fly through both air and water with no obvious signs of propulsion, and no wings. For many years, the Pentagon has had a group called Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) to document and analyze the data from UAPs sightings. In some cases, there are simple explanations to these phenomena. But in many cases, there just aren’t. 60 Minutes (14 minutes)
So, our question this week is: Did this report change your view on the existence of extraterrestrial life? Give your answer here.
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline. In the sequel to Ready Player One, days after winning OASIS founder James Halliday’s contest, Wade Watts makes a discovery that changes everything. Hidden within Halliday’s vaults, waiting for his heir to find, lies a technological advancement that will once again change the world and make the OASIS a thousand times more wondrous—and addictive—than even Wade dreamed possible. With it comes a new riddle and a new quest—a last Easter egg from Halliday, hinting at a mysterious prize. And an unexpected, impossibly powerful and dangerous new rival awaits, one who’ll kill millions to get what he wants. Wade’s life and the future of the OASIS are again at stake. But this time, the fate of humanity also hangs in the balance. Lovingly nostalgic and wildly original as only Ernest Cline could conceive it, Ready Player Two takes us on another imaginative, fun, action-packed adventure through his beloved virtual universe and jolts us thrillingly into the future once again. Amazon
Most Read Last Week
Tiny—This is simply a video of a man in Belgium (Not the Netherlands, as I mistakenly wrote last week) parking his tiny car in a tiny garage with 3 cm on either side. Thanks, Joachim, for straightening me out.
Mulberry—On March 10, 1945, five months before World War II ended in mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese accidentally came close to ending production of the radioactive materials needed for the atomic bombs—using paper balloons.
Karaoke—Karaoke is a microcosm of everything we haven’t been able to do since the pandemic began. Large groups of people sing and shout at the top of their lungs while sharing mics, drinks and hugs in a small, windowless space with little ventilation. Can you imagine?
Feedback Loop—Last week’s question was: Agree or disagree? An investment in bitcoin could conceivably be considered an investment in environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), given its potential impact on energy use and generation mix.
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Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe, or we are not. Both are equally terrifying. –Arthur C. Clarke
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