Weekend Briefing No. 483
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend. Here’s my May playlist. Enjoy!
Did your brilliant friend share this with you?
27% — Researchers demonstrate record-breaking silicon solar cell efficiency, with almost 27% conversion rates; performance is roughly a 1.5% efficiency increase over similar leading devices.
30% — IBM’s CEO states that 30% of the company’s non-customer-facing roles could be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) and automation over five years.
11 — Apple’s Safari reclaimed its runner-up spot on the list of most-used desktop web browsers, narrowly topping Microsoft Edge. Both are used by ~11% of global users, compared to Google Chrome’s 66%.
Here are seven questions to impress your boss: 1) What do you think are the three biggest issues for our team right now? This shows big-picture thinking and caring about the team’s success. 2) My top three priorities are X, Y and Z. Do you feel they’re the most impactful way for me to spend my time? This shows a desire to have an impact and work on the most important things. 3) I noticed X happened, and I’m worried it might impact our team’s goal for Z. Am I looking at this the right way? This shows proactivity and transparency in identifying blockers. 4) I’m thinking about trying X, Y and Z to improve ABC. What do you think of those ideas? This shows initiative in solving problems. 5) What do you think my strengths and weaknesses are relative to others on our team? How can I double down on my strengths / mitigate my weaknesses? This shows desire for growth. 6) I am not as effective as I’d like to be on X. Do you have any suggestions for how I can improve? This shows self-awareness and openness for feedback. 7) Can I share some feedback for you that might help you do X better? This shows courage in speaking truth to power for the sake of the team. The Looking Glass (5 minutes)
What do you think of these questions? What would you add to the list?
Future of Fertility
In 2016, two Japanese reproductive biologists, Katsuhiko Hayashi and Mitinori Saitou, made an announcement in the journal Nature that read like a science fiction novel. The researchers took skin cells from the tip of a mouse’s tail, reprogrammed them into stem cells and then turned those stem cells into egg cells. The eggs, once fertilized, were transferred to the uteruses of female mice, who gave birth to 10 pups. Some of the pups went on to have babies of their own. Gametes are the cells, such as eggs and sperm, that are essential for sexual reproduction. With their experiment, Hayashi and Saitou provided the first proof that what’s known as in-vitro gametogenesis (IVG) — the production of gametes outside the body, beginning with nonreproductive cells — was possible in mammals. Could it work for humans? If so, will it be the future of fertility? New Yorker (42 minutes)
Invest like King Charles (For Only Thousands)
King Charles’ inherited art collection makes up a staggering — and secretive — portion of his wealth. But this collection isn’t just historic; it preserves the Crown’s fortune, as even $33 trillion in stock market losses couldn’t stop art prices from increasing 13% year over year in 2022, according to BofA. While market volatility clatters about on its horse-drawn carriage, Masterworks’ art investing platform has opened access to everyone. It has successfully sold $45 million of art — distributing the proceeds not to Monarchs, but to Masterworks investors just like you, with recent exits delivering +10.4%, +13.9%, and +35.0% net annualized returns. It’s no fluke — the contemporary art Masterworks offers has outpaced the S&P 500 by 131% over the last 26 years. Now, Weekend Briefing readers can invest like royalty, and skip the line like they do too with this exclusive link. Masterworks (Sponsored)
Microsoft and Fusion
Microsoft has signed a power purchase agreement with nuclear fusion energy startup Helion for at least 50 megawatts of electricity beginning in 2028, the companies announced Wednesday. The agreement is being billed as the world’s first such deal for a fusion firm. It comes as money and interest pours into the much heralded, yet-to-be-realized clean energy source. Fusion has long been viewed as the holy grail of clean energy, and recent advances have led to a mini-boom of funding fusion startups. Axios (3 minutes)
Mass shootings are tragic and increasingly common, particularly in the United States. As people grapple with the best ways to curb these senseless events, they often wonder whether technology could be the way forward. It’s not the sole solution, but it could certainly help. Here are some ideas: 1) Using big data to track possible trends. 2) A blockchain gun registry. 3) Preventing misuse with smart guns. 4) Analyzing the scene with AI. 5) Using virtual reality to design against a mass shooting. Hackernoon (5 minutes)
Two-thirds of the planet’s fresh water is frozen. Most people live far from the glaciers and ice caps that hold it. But as the climate gets hotter, the ice is melting. That’s setting off a cascade of changes that reach far across the globe. This melting ice connects wildfires in the American West, a $34 billion Texas construction project, endangered whales and a Himalayan village. Check out this cool interactive story. NPR (9 minutes)
What’s fascinating about the awareness of our mortality is the myriad of ways we respond to that knowledge. Some people respond by doing everything in their power to avoid death, viewing it as something that needs to be defeated through technology. Others view death as something liberating, as the starting point to an eternity in heaven where they can be reunited with their loved ones. Others simply accept it, and don’t make much of it. The potential responses to the awareness of our mortality is, ironically enough, quite endless. What this means is something profound. When faced with a biological fact, we have the ability to choose how we interpret it. The mind has the power to frame the inevitability of entropy in a way that aligns with one’s values and perceptions. When we call someone an optimist, for example, we’re referring to someone that takes the reality of pain and perceives it as an opportunity for something better. The optimist doesn’t deny the existence of pain, but instead sees it as a gateway to growth. We have the power to reframe the events of our lives, and to perceive them in a way that empowers us. While circumstances may be outside of our control, our interpretations can be consciously shaped. And nowhere is this more salient than the distinction between pain and suffering. More To That (5 minutes)
Should We Work Together?
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 flat, 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 one-on-one call with me.
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Friends are the siblings God never gave us. – Mencius