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Weekend Briefing No. 430
Weekend Briefing - a Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend.
Are you interested in Web3 and a social/environmental impact? Me too. We’re hosting Web3 Impact Summit - a half-day conference on that topic in Austin, Texas on June 9th. This week, we confirmed a number of great speakers, including keynotes from Kimbal Musk of BigGreenDAO and Kevin Owocki of Gitcoin.
We still have a few spots left. Applications are closing soon, so click here to apply today.
Also, my May playlist is a good one. It includes Pheobe Bridger, Lucius, Morgan Wallen and Glass Animals, among others. I hope you enjoy!
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11.5 million—Employers posted 11.5 million job openings in March, while 4.5 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs. Both figures are the highest on record, and reflect a tight labor market that has encouraged workers to seek better opportunities and higher pay.
122—Temperatures in India during March were the highest in 122 years, with an average maximum temperature of 91.6 degrees.
19—Qantas announced on Monday it will launch the world's longest non-stop commercial flight, with passengers set to spend 19 hours in the air travelling from Sydney to London by the end of 2025.
Busy, But Unproductive
We’re drowning in messages and alerts, but nothing is getting done. Why is that? Interacting is easier than ever, but true, productive, value-creating collaboration is not. And what’s more, where engagement is occurring, its quality is deteriorating. This wastes valuable resources because every minute spent on a low-value interaction eats into time that could be used for important, creative and powerful activities. What can be done? It’s possible to quickly improve collaborative interactions by categorizing them by type and making a few shifts accordingly. Here are three broad categories of collaborative interactions (exhibit): (1) Decision-making, including complex or uncertain decisions (for example, investment decisions) and cross-cutting routine decisions (such as quarterly business reviews). (2) Creative solutions and coordination, including innovation sessions (for example, developing new products) and routine working sessions (such as daily check-ins). (3) Information sharing, including one-way communication (video, for instance) and two-way communication (such as town halls with Q&As). McKinsey & Company (12 minutes)
The World’s Largest Battery
Electricity faces a fundamental problem that comes with pretty much any product that’s provided on-demand: Our ability to generate large amounts of it doesn’t match up that closely with when we need it. This is especially true with wind and solar, which tend to have a more variable output than other forms of energy generation. The storage of electricity for later use, especially on a large scale, is quite challenging. One ingenious solution to the storage problem is pumped storage. Here’s how it works: There are two reservoirs of water at different elevations. Whenever demand is low, the excess electricity that’s being generated is used to pump the water from the low elevation reservoir to the high elevation reservoir. Then when demand is high, the water is released from the upper reservoir, which spins a turbine and generates additional electricity to supplement the existing sources. It’s a simple, but clever way to use water and gravity to create the world’s largest battery. Practical Engineering (9 minutes)
ESG Investing Opportunity
It’s possible to affect positive social and environmental changes when you invest in a company that prioritizes Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). You can support climate change solutions, cleantech innovation, and fighting for equality and social justice with a single investment in a holding company that acts as an umbrella over all these causes—CoPeace. Built on a solid foundation, CoPeace has raised $3.3 million and is currently growing its network of ESG impact investors. The company is now seeking accredited investors positioned to make a difference in the race against time, and the existential threat of rising global temperatures and growing challenges in social justice and inequality. The current systemic risks to our world place us at critical crossroads. Don’t sit back and watch from the sidelines. If you’re a credited investor looking to invest a minimum of $50K, click to learn more. CoPeace (Sponsored)
MIT researchers have developed a portable desalination unit, weighing less than 10 kilograms, which can remove particles and salts to generate drinking water. The suitcase-sized device, which requires less power to operate than a cell phone charger, can also be driven by a small, portable solar panel, which can be purchased online for around $50. It automatically generates drinking water that exceeds World Health Organization quality standards. The technology is packaged into a user-friendly device that runs with the push of one button. Unlike other portable desalination units that require water to pass through filters, this device utilizes electrical power to remove particles from drinking water. Eliminating the need for replacement filters greatly reduces the long-term maintenance requirements. It could be perfect for post-disaster situations. MIT Technology Review (8 minutes)
Podcast host Emanuel Dzotsi used to spend whole Sunday afternoons walking around his apartment catching up with my friends on the phone. It used to bring him so much joy to know what was going on with people. But for a while now, it’s been hard to get on the phone without bracing himself to hear bad news. So, he’s stopped making as many calls. And he hates that because he feels his world is getting smaller and smaller. A while ago, he opened up his phone, looked at his contact list (roughly 1.5K people) and began a quest to call all of them. He wasn’t sure if it was even humanly possible to get through all of them. He asked people about who they were, who they thought he was and also got into some questions he was not totally prepared to have to answer. Reply All (36 minutes)
The writer Caity Weaver’s pursuit of the manifest destiny of the millennial generation ended up looking better in the photos. This is her tale of how the #vanlife isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. They were millennials pursuing the manifest destiny of that generation—chic, rootless wandering—who had become mired in a boomer-esque rush hour. They needed to leave. To suggest that the worst part of vacationing in a van is sleeping in a van is not fair to the other aspects of the endeavor, which were also all the worst part. It is cramped, slovenly and bad. On the last day of their adventure, in the rental-return lot, she received an unforgettable souvenir: excruciating pain that ripped through her back the second her foot touched the asphalt. While the agony left her unable to walk for weeks, it afforded her the extraordinary experience of sobbing in a wheelchair on the tarmac at LAX and clutching the hand of a kind-hearted Delta employee as she prayed aloud that her life would improve. She later learned that sitting tensely for several hours a day in a huge rattling vehicle can sometimes be bad for one’s back. New York Times (14 minutes)
In the 1920s, Henry Ford created a utopia in the middle of the Amazon jungle. The plan was to produce enough rubber to feed his auto empire, but the dream soon turned into a nightmare. Disease, riots, mud and caterpillars were too much for Ford's millions. Check out this video of the rise and fall of Fordlandia. Business Insider (13 minutes)
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber. Anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom: He shows that before there was money, there was debt. For more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors. Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it. Buy Now
Most Read Last Week
United States of Babel—The story of Babel is the best metaphor for what happened to America in the 2010s and for the fractured country we now inhabit.
Quality Time—This is a really cool animated visualization about who we spend time with at different points in life. My takeaway: Marry someone you like spending time with.
Effective Questions—At the heart of critical thinking is the ability to formulate deep, different and effective questions.
Funding Fridays is a briefing about the data and trends in startup funding. I send it out on the first Friday of each month. If you’re interested, click here to subscribe to Funding Fridays.
Web3 Impact is a briefing I co-write with Banks Benitez about how Web3 is making the world a better place. We send it out on the third Thursday of each month. If you’re interested, click here to subscribe to Web3 Impact.
Should We Work Together?
This newsletter is my passion project. When I’m not writing, I run a law firm for startups. Most entrepreneurs want a trusted legal partner, but they hate surprise legal bills. At Westaway, we take care of your startup’s legal needs for a fixed-monthly fee so you can control your costs and focus on scaling your business. If you’re interested, let’s jump on a call to see if you’re a good fit for the firm. Click here to schedule a call.
Your body hears everything your mind says. –Naomi Judd
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