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Weekend Briefing No. 421
Weekend Briefing - A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend.
My March playlist is mostly acoustic. It features The Lumineets, Amos Lee, Vance Joy, Hozier, Johnnyswim and many more amazing artists. Enjoy!
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3 million—Wildfires in Argentina are destroying the Iberá Wetlands, one of the largest ecosystems in the world. The fires have destroyed more than 3 million acres (1.3 million hectares) of farmland and forest—roughly the size of Connecticut.
85—U.S. light-duty electric vehicle sales grew 85% between 2020 and 2021, and plug-in hybrid sales grew 138%.
52—The art collective MSCHF has announced a massively multiplayer version of the SAT exam. For $52, you can enter to take the multiple-choice college admissions test today and play against everyone else who chooses to participate. Cheating is explicitly encouraged.
Microsoft at War
After years of discussions in Washington and in tech circles about the need for public-private partnerships to combat destructive cyberattacks, the war in Ukraine is stress-testing the system. Last Wednesday, a few hours before Russian tanks began rolling into Ukraine, alarms went off inside Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center, warning of a never-before-seen piece of “wiper” malware that appeared aimed at the country’s government ministries and financial institutions. Within three hours, Microsoft threw itself into the middle of a ground war in Europe—from 5,500 miles away. Since then they’ve coordinated with the U.S., British, Ukrainian and other European governments to stop Russian cyberattacks. Microsoft is shedding its neutrality and picking sides on this one. It has begun playing the role that Ford Motor Company did in World War II when the company converted automobile production lines to make Sherman tanks. New York Times (9 minutes)
A member of our Weekend Briefing community, Eve Blossom, has long been troubled by investing’s diversity problem. Overall, women and minorities only manage 1.3% of the world’s assets. Furthermore, according to a 2022 Deloitte report, the Venture Capital workforce is very white: Only 5% are Hispanic or Latinx, and only 4% are Black. The Material Change Institute is her answer to solving investing’s diversity problem. The program, which can be done concurrently with a full-time job, costs $2,995. It includes a curriculum for investment training, mentorship, internship opportunities, networking and outplacement help. Since the asset management industry is really a cornerstone of the world economy, we really need to unlock the value in new and emerging markets. And that happens to be where underrepresented investors can see these new and diverse markets with a different lens and achieve a real influence. Fast Company (2 minutes)
Warren Buffet’s “4th Law of Motion”
Yes, the “Oracle of Omaha” is also an investing scientist. 100% of you have heard about Newton’s three laws of motion. But did you know Warren Buffet discovered a 4th law? Buffet’s “4th law of motion” states, “For investors as a whole, returns decrease as motion increases.” In other words, the less you micromanage your portfolio, the better off you’ll be. So how can you practice what Buffet preaches? Well, there’s an app that makes it easy. It gives access to a “hands-off” investment that’s outpaced the S&P 500 by 2x from 1995 to 2021, blue-chip art. Investing in a Warhol or a Picasso painting used to cost $7,000,000… But with Masterworks, you can invest paintings by legends like them for 1/1000th of that. I use Masterworks, and I can tell you. It’s super easy to get started. Want in? Get VIP access with my private Weekend Briefing link. Masterworks (Sponsored)
Twitter’s Web3 Pivot
The impulse to build decentralized systems is rooted in the foundation of the internet. Twitter is looking back at how the company started and how it strayed, and it is trying to tap into that old idealism for a new kind of business. Its newly appointed chief executive, Parag Agrawal, has championed decentralization inside the company, hiring cryptocurrency developers and prioritizing related projects. Twitter executives now believe that decentralizing the social media service will radically shift online power, moving it into the hands of users, and pose a fundamental challenge to the walled gardens of companies like Facebook. A decentralized Twitter could take years to emerge and might look much the same as it does today. But it could allow users to set moderation rules for their own communities and ease the pressure Twitter faces from lawmakers over how it moderates content. It might also open new revenue streams for the company. If you decentralize your platform and you give developers more power to make richer experiences and better, safer timelines, then everybody benefits. New York Times (12 minutes)
Fossil fuels dominate the global power supply because—until very recently—electricity from fossil fuels was far cheaper than electricity from renewables. This has dramatically changed within the last decade. In most places in the world, power from new renewables is now cheaper than power from new fossil fuels. The fundamental driver of this change is that renewable energy technologies follow learning curves. This means that with each doubling of the cumulative installed capacity, their price declines by the same fraction. The price of electricity from fossil fuel sources, however, does not follow learning curves. That means we should expect that the price difference between expensive fossil fuels and cheap renewables will become even larger in the future. If we increase the installed capacity, it has the extremely important positive consequence price drop, which makes renewable energy sources more attractive—earlier. In turn, investment in solar creates a virtuous cycle. In the coming years, most of the additional demand for new electricity will come from low- and middle-income countries. We have the opportunity now to ensure that much of the new power supply will be provided by low-carbon sources. Our World in Data (21 minutes)
Sixty percent of IKEA purchases are impulse buys. And IKEA’s own creative director has said that only 20% of the store’s purchases are based on actual logic and needs. How does IKEA trick you into buying more stuff? (1) Store layout. Inside, customers are led through a preordained, one-way path that winds through 50-plus room settings. The average IKEA store is 300k sq. ft.—the equivalent of about five football fields—and their typical shopper ends up walking almost a mile. This forces wider product exposure, creates a false sense of scarcity and creates mystery. (2) Low prices. IKEA often follows a “price first, design later” philosophy: It starts with a price target—say $6.99 for a new stool—then reverse-engineers the design process to meet that goal. IKEA seems to adhere to a “survival of the fittest” pricing model: If a product’s price can’t be reduced over time, it tends to get discontinued. (3) The IKEA Effect. We have a cognitive bias wherein we place a higher value on items we build ourselves, regardless of the quality of the end result. (4) Cafeteria. A survey of 700 shoppers found that those who ate at the food court spent an average of more than two times more on home furnishings than those who didn’t. The Hustle (13 minutes)
Career Ending Mistake
Maybe rather than rushing around wildly at work for decades, we should give a little thought to what we want to achieve in our careers. Then, rather than just sitting back and hoping it happens, we should actively plan and take steps to bring it about. So what would a career plan look like? And when should we start making it? The first phase of your career is probably too early to make serious plans, and any decisions you make at this stage are rarely critical: there's plenty of room to experiment and make mistakes. In the final phase, by contrast, you have fewer options, and there's not much time to pull off a significant change of direction. The middle part of your career is the right time to start thinking seriously about this stuff. You should be planning, in other words, to enter the final phase of your career in the right position, at the right level, and at the right time to land where you want to land at the end of the flight. So where is that, exactly? I think there are three main kinds of career destinations, at least in the tech industry: (1) Independent, (2) Senior individual contributor or (3) Management. Bitfield Consulting (16 minutes)
Mastering Bitcoin by Andreas M. Antonopoulos. Mastering Bitcoin is your guide through the seemingly complex world of bitcoin, providing the knowledge you need to participate in the internet of money. Whether you're building the next killer app, investing in a startup or simply curious about the technology, this revised and expanded second edition provides essential detail to get you started. Bitcoin, the first successful decentralized digital currency, is still in its early stages and yet it's already spawned a multibillion dollar global economy. This economy is open to anyone with the knowledge and passion to participate. Buy Now.
Most Read Last Week
Career Athleticism—We are preparing our kids for a future dictated by the past: How can we change course?
The Pursuit of Happiness—Instead of chasing happiness, find and follow your north star.
Hybrid Work—For tens of millions of knowledge-economy workers, the office is never coming all the way back. The implications—for work, cities and the geography of labor—will be fascinating.
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Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts. –Winston Churchill
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