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Weekend Briefing No. 444
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society.
Welcome to the weekend.
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729—Last year, there were 729 total book challenges for young readers in school and public libraries in the U.S., up substantially from the 156 such challenges lodged in 2020.
$298—The average price of a round-trip domestic flight in the United States is $298, significantly lower than the $400 average fare seen back in May.
7%—HD Hyundai’s new artificial intelligence navigation tech was found to boost the fuel efficiency of the tanker Prism Courage by 7% and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5%, which writ large that global shipping could have enormous benefits.
I was recently on The Modern Independent podcast where I had a conversation with my friend Sam Lee about one of my favorite topics: optimizing output. The major problem is that most knowledge workers are always busy but rarely productive. Do you ever feel like you are so busy and rushed, yet you never get anything done? Do you ever feel that you're making a millimeter of progress in a million directions? Do you ever log off your last Zoom call of the day exhausted, only to realize that you now have to actually start doing your work? Do you frequently find yourself needing to work past 9 p.m. just to stay caught up on work? If so, you may want to check out this podcast and learn more about my journey toward greater productivity and impact at work. The Modern Independent (43 minutes)
Goldfish and Startups
What do Goldfish and Startups have in common? They both encounter the limits of fast growth. Let me explain. Take two groups of identical baby fish. Put one in abnormally cold water; the other in abnormally warm water. The fish living in cold water will grow slower than normal, while those in warm water will grow faster than normal. Put both groups back in regular temperature water and they’ll eventually converge to become normal, full-sized adults. But pay attention to what happens next. Fish with slowed-down growth in their early days go on to live 30% longer than average. Those with artificial super-charged growth early on die 15% earlier than average. The cause isn’t complicated. Super-charged growth can cause permanent tissue damage and “may only be achieved by diversion of resources away from maintenance and repair of damaged biomolecules.” Slowed-down growth does the opposite—“allowing an increased allocation to maintenance and repair.” In the startup world, a focus on topline growth often leads to underinvestment in other areas, which makes the company less resilient, more fragile and more prone to (sometimes epic) implosions. For all the hype about hyper-growth startups, we need to acknowledge that fast growth comes at a cost. Collaborative Fund (11 minutes)
Decreasing Churn by 20%
Visa vs Mastercard? Debit vs credit cards? US vs EU? All of these factors make a huge difference in the rate at which payments are successfully processed. The majority of subscription companies simply toggle the 'auto retry' that is supported by their PSP and assume that's enough to counter payment failure. Unfortunately, as fraud has become more complex over time, so has the ability to process payments. This is an issue that affects all companies - small and large. A popular EdTech platform found that in the previous year, more than $1.2M legitimate payment attempts failed. After a month of working with Butter, the company had increased their payment recovery rates by 18% and recovered $1.4M in incremental revenue. Read the full case study. Butter (Sponsored)
Hip-Hop and Climate Action
Music can amplify social issues and inspire people to care about new (and sometimes unexpected) topics. But can it take something as dire as climate change and make it mainstream? With artists MyVerse and Kristen Warren as an inspiring opening act, social entrepreneur Samir Ibrahim suggests hip-hop and its stars can help us move from talking about the problem to rapping about (and acting on) solutions. TED (10 minutes)
Ali Wong’s Stand-Up
This interactive piece is a breakdown of why comedian Ali Wong’s stand-up comedy is so brilliant. There’s a moment 75% of the way into her routine where she got the most laughs—we’ll call that the laughter climax. Why was this moment so funny? After dissecting it, this piece is going to show you how form—the structure of the entire routine—played a big role. Form made the joke funnier. The laughter climax is meta funny. For 50 minutes, Ali has built a universe, with each joke expanding the audience’s understanding of her worldview. As an audience, we delight in seeing all the plotlines converge into one and realizing that the storyteller was crafting a deeper idea all along. The Pudding (12 minutes)
You know you’re in a memetic trap when it hurts to leave, and there’s nowhere to go. The social reward signal is decoupled from the rest of objective reality. You can spend years ascending ranks in a hierarchy without producing anything that the rest of humanity finds valuable. Here are some tips on avoiding memetic traps: (1) Enjoy the process of whatever you’re doing. You’ll be happier and much more likely to practice, which leads to better outcomes. (2) Make sure your job has clear price signals for success and failure. Be suspicious of roles that compensate you with status or non-financial rewards. (3) Maintain a diversity of pursuits. You want to ensure that no matter how engrossed you become in one, you never forget that the others exist. (4) Join Twitter. There’s no better way to reduce tunnel vision. Here’s a list of some of my favorite Twitter follows. Brian Timar (9 minutes)
Kevin Kelly, founding Editor of WIRED magazine, released 103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known on his 70th birthday. Here are some of my favorite pieces of advice from the book: (1) No one is as impressed by your possessions as you are. (2) When you forgive others, they may not notice—but you will heal. Forgiveness is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves. (3) Efficiency is highly overrated; Goofing off is highly underrated. Regularly scheduled sabbaths, sabbaticals, vacations, breaks, aimless walks and time off are essential for top performance of any kind. The best work ethic requires a good rest ethic. (4) You see only 2% of another person, and they see only 2% of you. Attune yourselves to the hidden 98%. (5) The chief prevention against getting old is to remain astonished. KK (11 minutes)
Move Fast. Don’t Break Things.
Hi! I’m Kyle. This newsletter is my passion project. When I’m not writing, I run a law firm that helps startups move fast without breaking things. Most founders 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.
The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings. -Thomas Sowell
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