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Weekend Briefing No. 419
Weekend Briefing - A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend. Hi from Denver! If you’re at ETHDenver, shoot me a note.
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$218 billion—The value of online shopping returns in the United States has doubled each of the past three years, rising from $41 billion in 2019 to $102 billion in 2020 to $218 billion as of 2021. I don’t have scientific proof, but I think my sisters have a lot to do with this.
$7.3 billion—Last year was a massive year in the art market, with Sotheby’s seeing $7.3 billion in sales, Christie’s seeing $7.1 billion, and Phillips seeing $1.2 billion in consolidated auction and private sales.
3.7%—U.S. mortgage rates increase to the highest level since January 2020, currently averaging 3.7% for 30-year loan.
Fired by His Own DAO
Until last week, Brantly Millegan was a key player in the Ethereum Name Service (ENS) Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO). He’s a Catholic who holds personal traditional Catholic beliefs on LGBTQ+ issues. Some old tweets surfaced where he expressed those views, and some members of the ENS community lambasted Millegan, both for making his original comments and standing by them. Millegan, for his part, says: “I don’t think it’s practical or moral for the Web3 industry to exclude the many traditional-minded Christians, Muslims, Jews and others who agree with me.” Normally people would just have to keep tweeting about ENS or stage some kind of boycott. But because of the ENS DAO, they had an alternate approach. Since DAOs are governed by the community, they could vote to fire him from his position at ENS, which they did. What do we make of the man who was fired by his own DAO? On one hand, we can view it as some community members did, as a story of Web3 empowerment. As the crypto investor and evangelist Chris Dixon said over the weekend as this all went down: “Don’t like something someone did? Change how you delegate your tokens. This is how the internet should have worked all along.” On the other, I imagine it all may have come as a surprise to right-leaning blockchain enthusiasts who prize the technology for the way it resists censorship and stands apart from more traditional systems of governance. The intersection between people who love crypto and angrily inveigh against “cancel culture” is large and vocal, and the Millegan affair has thrown them all for a loop. The Platformer (15 minutes)
Web3 Product Manager
This is a great post enumerating 10 truths of Web3 product management. (1) You have to prioritize execution over vision/strategy. (2) You have to do user research, business development and marketing directly, yourself. (3) You have to focus on perfecting the details rather than expanding features. (4) You have to understand your users without their email addresses, tracking tools or running A/B tests. (5) You have to design your product around the trade-offs of a given L1/L2 blockchain like Ethereum or Solana. (6) You have to be extremely careful about what you deploy in smart contracts, and that slows development time. (7) You cannot rely on proprietary code, trade secrets and data moats as your competitive advantage. (8) You cannot make all product decisions unilaterally and may not control your roadmap. (9) You must prioritize user security. With every transaction, there are funds at stake. (10) Regulatory concerns have mostly shifted from Web2 to Web3. Lenny’s Newsletter (17 minutes)
Holy Trinity of Finance
You can’t get anyone to agree on anything these days. So when UBS, Deloitte and Citi all say the same thing, I listen. Recently, they all published reports advocating for an unusual asset class. It has nothing to do with NFTs, Bitcoin or anything you’d expect. Shockingly, they all believe art is an investable, financial asset. In fact, Deloitte discovered 85% of wealth managers believe art should be offered to clients. If you look at art purely as an investment, it makes sense why. Contemporary art prices outpaced S&P 500 returns by 164% from 1995 to 2021, besting gold and real estate returns by nearly two times. Normally, adding this asset class to your portfolio costs millions of dollars and a lot of time—until a fintech start-up called Masterworks changed the game. Their revolutionary platform lets you invest in this exciting asset class in minutes. Join over 340,000 early adopters with our private Weekend Briefing link. Masterworks (Sponsored)
Predicting the Future
This is a fun thread about predicting the future: (1) If it’s a talking point on Reddit, you’re probably too early. If it’s a talking point on LinkedIn, you’re definitely too late. (2) Mainstream topics are typically six to 12 months downstream of memes on Twitter, Reddit or 4chan. (3) Change your geography. The future isn’t evenly distributed. You can get on a six-hour flight and move six years ahead. @George_Mack (1 minute)
Facebook’s African Sweatshop
In a drab office building near a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, nearly 200 young men and women from countries across Africa sit at desks glued to computer monitors, where they must watch videos of murders, rapes, suicides and child sexual abuse. These young Africans work for Sama, which calls itself an “ethical AI” outsourcing company and is headquartered in California. The workers in this Nairobi office are among the lowest-paid workers for the platform anywhere in the world, with some of them taking home as little as $1.50 per hour, a TIME investigation found. The testimonies of Sama employees reveal a workplace culture characterized by mental trauma, intimidation and alleged suppression of the right to unionize. The revelations raise serious questions about whether Facebook—which periodically sends its own employees to Nairobi to monitor Sama’s operations—is exploiting the very people upon whom it is depending to ensure its platform is safe in Ethiopia and across the continent. And just as Facebook needs them most, TIME can reveal that content moderators at Sama are leaving the company in droves due to poor pay and working conditions, with six Ethiopians resigning in a single week in January. TIME (16 minutes)
Artificial Intelligence and Love
While an artificial intelligence-powered partner may feel a tad futuristic, the technology may play a critical role in the future of love very soon. Tidio, a customer service platform, surveyed ~1.2K people and uncovered a treasure trove of data about how they see AI fitting into their love lives. People want AI’s help. Around 63% of single respondents said they would use an AI-powered dating app to find a partner. Some of the most popular use cases for the technology include in-app chat—56% would like AI to offer recommendations for in-app messaging (e.g., replies, new topics, general direction of conversation); and profile improvement: 69% would let AI analyze their profile and offer recommendations to make it more attractive. But people don’t trust AI with everything. Some of the areas where most people draw the line include breakups—only 7% would end a relationship if AI recommended it. Though 52% of respondents would prefer a real-life partner, interest in the virtual variety are gaining steam—31% believe a perfect virtual partner sounds great, and 16% want both a virtual and real-life partner. The Hustle (4 minutes)
Pass the Ball
Forty animators from around the world collaborated on a two-minute video called Pass the Ball: Each person had three seconds to animate a ball and “pass” it to the next person. It’s really charming. Kottke (2 minutes)
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. A young Brahmin named Siddhartha searches for ultimate reality after meeting with the Buddha. His quest takes him from a life of decadence to asceticism, from the illusory joys of sensual love with a beautiful courtesan, and of wealth and fame, to the painful struggles with his son and the ultimate wisdom of renunciation. Integrating Eastern and Western spiritual traditions with psychoanalysis and philosophy, written with a deep and moving empathy for humanity, Herman Hesse’s strangely simple Siddhartha is perhaps the most important and compelling moral allegory the troubled twentieth century ever produced. Buy Now
Most Read Last Week
Deep Life—Cal Newport talks about the “deep life,” which is living a way that feels authentic, interesting, resilient and minimizes those end-of-life regrets.
Thrive by Five—Molly Wright is 7 years old, and she just delivered the perfect TED Talk on parenting.
B Corps and Consumers—What hurdles exist for consumers purchasing socially and environmentally friendly products?
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When the ideas are coming, I don't stop until the ideas stop because that train doesn't come along all the time. –Dr. Dre
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