Weekend Briefing No. 417
Welcome to the weekend.
Enjoy my February playlist of mainly mellow electronic and features: The Weeknd, Emmit Fenn, Hot Chip, Hippie Sabatoge, Lucius, Bob Moses and others.
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85—While the percentage of Americans who are satisfied with the direction of the United States is only around 17%, 85% percent of Americans are very or somewhat satisfied with how things are going in their personal life.
18—Almost three-quarters (74%) of U.S. adults (18 or older) are fully vaccinated. The most recent data suggests unvaccinated adult patients are 12 to 18 times more likely to require hospitalization.
5—Read this advice from a five-year-old about dealing with stress.
Cyberweapons and Diplomacy
In June 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation bought a version of Pegasus, a premier spying tool built by Israeli defense company NSO Group. For nearly a decade, the Israeli firm had been selling its surveillance software on a subscription basis to law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world, promising that it could do what no one else—not a private company, not even a state intelligence service—could do: consistently and reliably crack the encrypted communications of any iPhone or Android smartphone. The combination of Israel’s search for influence and NSO’s drive for profits has also led to the powerful spying tool ending up in the hands of a new generation of nationalist leaders worldwide. Though the Israeli government’s oversight was meant to prevent the powerful spyware from being used in repressive ways, Pegasus has been sold to Poland, Hungary and India, despite those countries’ questionable records on human rights. The United States has made a series of calculations in response to these developments—secretly acquiring, testing and deploying the company’s technology, even as it has denounced the company in public and sought to limit its access to vital American suppliers. The current showdown between the United States and Israel over NSO demonstrates how governments increasingly view powerful cyberweapons the same way they have long viewed military hardware like fighter jets and centrifuges: not only as pivotal to national defense but also as a currency with which to buy influence around the world. New York Times (51 minutes)
The Blockchain and Crime
Kathryn Haun is a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice and is its first-ever coordinator for emerging financial technologies. In this TEDx talk, she tells the story about how U.S. prosecutors used the bitcoin blockchain to shut down The Silk Road—a dark web bazaar selling illegal goods. But the more interesting twist is how they also used the immutable power of the blockchain to bust some dirty cops in the process. There are a lot of twists I didn’t see coming. It’s definitely worth a watch. Next time you hear a friend saying that cryptocurrencies perpetuate crime, please share this video with them. TEDx (22 minutes)
In just 3 hours, a $7,428,000 Banksy offering was sold out to members on an art investing platform called Masterworks. Why? Their data shows Banksy’s artwork has an average price appreciation of 19.9% (nearly double the S&P 500) from 2007 to 2020. And, investors on Masterworks recently saw a 32% annualized appreciation, net of fees, from the sale of another Banksy painting called “Mona Lisa.” To date, Over 330,000 people have joined Masterworks. This demand for art investing shouldn’t be surprising because Blue-chip Art prices have outpaced the S&P 500 by 164% from 1995 to 2021. Numbers like these really catch my eye, which is why I also signed up for Masterworks. Investing in art by Warhol, Picasso, and Banksy was once reserved for the ultra-wealthy Billionaires. Now, anyone can do it. Unlock the power of art investing with my private Weekend Briefing link. Masterworks (Sponsored)
One does not simply build the metaverse. According to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “The experiences we’re building for the metaverse require enormous compute power … and RSC will enable new AI models that can learn from trillions of examples, understand hundreds of languages, and more.” Meta’s AI Research SuperCluster (RSC) is a new artificial intelligence supercomputer that will soon be the fastest in the world. The objective is to ingest troves of data to build artificial intelligence (AI) models that can think like a human brain, with multiple inputs—such as voice and visual recognition—and can deliver contextual understanding of situations. It will one day train models with more than a trillion parameters on data sets as large as an exabyte, which is roughly equivalent to 36K years of high-quality video. One of the outputs will be AI-powered agents in the metaverse that will be able to engage with you in a realistic manner. Wall Street Journal (7 minutes)
Blockchains and Physical Assets
Ever since I heard the concept that a blockchain could track a (non-digital) physical good, I’ve been bothered with a question. How do we trust that the tampering/fraud of a physical good (or its tracker) is captured on a blockchain? Imagine a case of fine wine that was scanned as it was loaded onto a boat, then scanned as it was loaded off the boat. How do we know it wasn’t replaced with a cheaper wine in transit? I’ve yet to find a completely convincing answer to this question, but this article is the best answer I’ve heard yet. Eric Jorgenson (8 minutes)
Research shows that you should ask these five questions to your direct reports. 1) How would you like to grow within this organization? 2) Do you feel a sense of purpose in your job? 3) What do you need from me to do your best work? 4) What are we currently not doing as a company that you feel we should do? 5) Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day? Harvard Business Review (7 minutes)
Second Home First
These days, instead of purchasing a single-family home to live in, some Millennial consumers are setting their sights on vacation homes—often ones they plan to use only part of the time and rent out the rest. It might seem like putting the cart before the horse, but for these buyers, it’s a strategic, win-win arrangement: They earn extra income, build wealth and have a property they can escape to whenever they please. It’s not all about rental income, though; there are other factors at play in this trend. High prices in big cities are forcing young buyers to look outside the city. And remote work is increasingly common among younger Americans. According to a recent survey from youth marketing research firm Ypulse, over half of millennials are still working from home, either fully or—in the case of 21%, at least some of the time. Money (5 minutes)
Falling Upward by Richard Rohr. The author seeks to help readers understand the tasks of the two halves of life and to show them that those who have gone ''down'' are the only ones who understand ''up.'' Those who have somehow fallen, and fallen well, are the only ones who can grow spiritually and not misuse “up.” More than anything else, he describes what ''up'' (in the second half of life) will look like and could look like. Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as ''falling upward.'' In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness, and life flows out from them naturally. Buy Now
Most Read Last Week
Social Sector and Web3—How can the social sector (nonprofits, philanthropists, activists, social enterprises, impact investors, etc.) leverage Web3 technologies?
Netflix for Drinks—Could it be possible to create a machine that could synthesize any drink at home by just the press of a button?
Building a Startup Brand—Here are five mistakes you need to avoid when building a startup brand.
In addition to the Weekend Briefing, I write atwo-minute Friday morning briefing on startup funding called Funding Fridays. If you’re interested, click here to subscribe to Funding Fridays.
Should We Work Together?
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Words and ideas work in the short run to get you through school and to impress educators and employers. But they do not work in the long run or in the deep run. We soon find ourselves separate and without wonder. –Richard Rohr
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