Weekend Briefing No. 446
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society.
Welcome to the weekend.
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1,150—The Washington State Department of Agriculture has so far rolled out 1,150 traps over 310 square miles in their attempts to eradicate the northern giant hornet, an invasive species that first showed up in Washington state in 2019.
14%—Fourteen percent of Unilever’s sales are now online.
100,000kg—The Ocean Cleanup has now officially removed more than 100,000 kg of plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
What is The Merge?
Ethereum developers have agreed to an updated September timeline for the blockchain’s long-awaited “merge” upgrade, which will see it move from its current, energy-intensive “proof-of-work” system to a 99% more-efficient “proof-of-stake” system. The merge is a complex, multi-year technological feat that's seen many delays. Here’s how it will work and why it matters. Proof of work is the original crypto “consensus mechanism,” beginning with Bitcoin. It allows many computers across a decentralized network to verify transactions. Ethereum also currently uses this process to create new coins. It requires a huge amount of computer power from virtual “miners” around the world, who compete to solve a time-consuming math puzzle. The winner gets to update the blockchain with the latest block of verified transactions and is rewarded with a predetermined amount of new ETH. So what exactly is being merged? Ethereum’s upgrade will combine the current proof-of-work blockchain with a proof-of-stake blockchain called the Beacon Chain, which has been running since 2020. Once complete, the Beacon Chain will take over the process of validating new transactions. Hundreds of thousands of validators have already staked more than 13 million ETH on the Beacon Chain. Coinbase (7 minutes)
Flipping the Economic Script
Every morning, a new headline underscores growing economic concerns: Highest inflation since the 1970s. Central banks aggressively raised rates. Consumer sentiment at record lows. Commodity prices near all-time highs. Clearly inflation has, at a minimum, altered the economic mood, and potentially reset the path of global and national economies worldwide for years to come. McKinsey’s experts have examined many of the strategic implications of inflation. In this article, they use the best and most recent publicly available data to offer seven charts illustrating inflation’s insidious progress. The most striking chart to me was the impact of inflation on wages. Rampant inflation is rising so fast that it has diminished the purchasing power of people’s take-home pay. For example, workers in the United Kingdom today have seen their real compensation fall by roughly 8% year-on-year. McKinsey (8 minutes)
Payment Health Analysis
Payments get a bad rep. When most companies hear the word 'payments', they cringe. Payments are a necessary component of any company, but it's something you'd rather never have to worry about. When most technology companies talk about payments, it's all about reducing the 'bad things' - churn, payment failure, service disruption, etc. However, the focus should be on how to leverage payments to drive revenue growth. Enter Butter Payments, a payments platform that's built to enable subscription companies to unlock revenue through payments, working with top subscription brands like Coursera and Skillshare. Even if you don't want to touch your payments stack, we believe that at minimum companies should granularly understand how their current payments are functioning, a free process called a Payment Health Analysis. Butter (Sponsored)
A History of Light
This is a quick visual history of human-created light sources over the past ~400,000 years, from wood fires to candles to the electric light. In 3,000 BCE, the “rushlight” candle was invented in Ancient Egypt. It is made of a pithy stalk of rush soaked in animal fat. In 1500 BCE, Babylonian/Assyrian lamps were created from olive or sesame oil. They had a linen wick and were fashioned from stone, terracotta, metal or shells. In 100 CE, the Romans created the tallow candle, which has a small wick with a thick, hand-formed layer of tallow. One of the more interesting inventions along the way was the moonlight tower. In the early days of electric lights, mimicking the bright light of the Moon was one of the ways that towns chose to light their streets. Check out this two-minute video. The Atlantic (2 minutes)
Geothermal in Iceland
In this short video from TED-Ed, we learn how Iceland extracts nearly emissions-free geothermal energy from the Earth (hint: volcanoes) but also how harnessing geothermal energy with heat pumps is something that can be done around the world. TED (5 minutes)
My buddy Khe Hy, who writes one of my favorite newsletters—Rad Reads, turned 43 and wrote about what he’s learned in 43 years. Here are some of my favorites: (1) When you find a really good fitting T-shirt, buy six of them. (2) It’s possible to build a kick-ass business while working 30 hours per week. (3) Living walking distance from your kids’ school is the ultimate life hack. (4) Making money is easy. Making money in alignment with your values is hard. (5) Ditch the storks; always talk to your kids like they’re grown-ups. (6) Making unspoken norms “spoken” eliminates a ton of misunderstandings and quarrels. (7) Accepting that we’re finite beings is freedom. RadReads (5 minutes)
Time and Love
In case you're not familiar, an end-of-life doula, also referred to as a death doula, provides emotional, spiritual, practical and physical (though not medical) support for people living with a terminal illness and their loved ones. This article, written by a death doula, is about what people are feeling at the end of life. (1) The most-common regret from people nearing the end of their life boils down to a single, overarching regret: "We always think we have more time." People get caught up in the day-to-day things of life and put off doing things that are truly meaningful to them. (2) Beyond the things they regret not doing, people nearing the end of their life also have one common realization: Love is all that truly matters. People often wish they had realized this sooner and lived their life knowing it. Well + Good (6 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.
Faith is an act of a finite being who is grasped by, and turned to, the infinite. - Paul Tillich
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