Weekend Briefing No. 492
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend.
As you’ll see below, Instagram’s new Twitter clone Threads is blowing up, and Twitter’s traffic is apparently suffering because of it. We’ll see if this is a flash in the pan or if the conversation is going to move to Threads. There is some indication that many people want a more sane version of Twitter, and that’s exactly what Threads is aiming to be. So, if you’re on the app, let’s be friends! Click here to follow me on Threads.
Additionally, I’m working on some topical briefings. As much as I like the breadth of the Weekend Briefing, sometimes I just want to dive deeply into a topic. I’ve been working on a couple that will come out late summer/early fall, and I’d love your input. Send me your favorite books, articles and videos on the following topics:
Climate Solutions — I’ve become very curious about the role technology has to play in saving the planet. Recycling and changing our light bulbs just aren’t going to get us there. So, I’ve been researching some less obvious / more controversial ideas such as nuclear, biochar and climate engineering. If you have a technology you think could be a game changer, shoot me a note.
Generative AI — I’ve been trying to synthesize my thoughts on this technology for a while. Send me your best articles and videos explaining Generative AI or about how it will reshape our world.
If I use something you submit, I’ll give you a shout-out in the briefing. Thanks.
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100,000,000 — Instagram’s new Threads app has already surpassed 100 million users, meaning it reached the milestone dramatically faster than even ChatGPT. OpenAI’s chatbot passed the mark after two months, but Threads got there in five days.
172 — Shipping titan Maersk has taken delivery of the first methanol-powered containership, a 172-meter-long, 2,100 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) capacity feeder ship that’s the first of 25 such methanol-powered ships Maersk has on order.
62.92 — The average global air temperature recorded 2 meters above Earth’s surface was 62.92°F on July 4, the highest that has ever been recorded. The previous record was set the day before.
Elon Musk launched his long-teased artificial intelligence startup xAI on Wednesday, unveiling a team comprised of engineers from the same big U.S. technology firms that he hopes to challenge in his bid to build an alternative to ChatGPT. Musk has repeatedly voiced concerns about AI's potential for "civilizational destruction." In a Twitter Spaces event on Wednesday evening, Musk explained his plan for building safer artificial intelligence (AI). Rather than explicitly programming morality into its AI, xAI will seek to create a "maximally curious" AI, he said. "If it tried to understand the true nature of the universe, that's actually the best thing that I can come up with from an AI safety standpoint," Musk said. "I think it is going to be pro-humanity from the standpoint that humanity is just much more interesting than not-humanity." Musk also predicted that superintelligence, or AI that is smarter than humans, will arrive in five or six years. Reuters (3 minutes)
I’m curious. What do you think about designing AI to be “maximally curious”?
Personality and Intelligence
A comprehensive meta-analysis carried out by researchers in Minnesota, synthesizing over 1,000 studies, revealed intriguing connections between various personality traits and cognitive abilities. The key traits found to be generally beneficial across diverse cognitive domains included: self-esteem, internal locus of control, compassion, industriousness, order, independent-mindedness, openness to experience and ideas, and activity. The correlation of compassion and self-esteem with intelligence was particularly surprising, contradicting conventional stereotypes of the brilliant jerk and the insecure nerd. The study suggests a more nuanced understanding of intelligence, underscoring the importance of self-belief in cognitive endeavors and challenging simplistic intellectual views often associated with abrasive personalities. Stew’s Letter (8 minutes)
Save Medicine, Save Lives
Despite one of the most advanced health systems in the world, 50 million Americans can’t afford their prescribed medicines. And yet, up to $11 billion in surplus medications each year are discarded before their use. It’s nothing short of a crime. Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine (SIRUM), a DRK Foundation portfolio organization, connects people who need these critical drugs with the untapped surplus of drugs from manufacturers, pharmacies and health facilities. What started as a student project at Stanford University by co-founders Adam Kircher, George Wang and Kiah Williams more than 10 years ago, is now the largest nationwide medicine redistribution program — redistributing over $190 million worth of prescription medications to benefit more than 150,000 patients, saving them an average of $150/month. SIRUM’s end-to-end technology solutions that match medicine donors to community partners leverages the power of technology to save medicine and save lives. DRK Foundation (Sponsored)
The least effective form of patience, passive patience, involves waiting idly for desired outcomes without any action, an approach that yields no results due to lack of action, thus contradicting Newton's third law. This belief is founded on the misguided expectation that the world owes you something or that success will randomly present itself. On the contrary, active patience is far more effective, as it involves taking necessary steps and preparing strategically for future success. Whether it's saving and investing wisely, acquiring skills for future opportunities or opting for kindness over cleverness, active patience aligns the world with your goals. It ensures that by maintaining a positive attitude and proactively pursuing your objectives, the world aids in carrying the load, facilitating achievement. Farnam Street (2 minutes)
The Daoists have a concept called wu-wei, which roughly translates to “effortless action.” This is the belief that the world we occupy is already in harmony, but this equilibrium is disturbed by our endless desires and wants. In order to restore this balance, we are to navigate the world according to how it already is instead of attempting to bend it to our will. Swim with the current of the river to see where it takes us rather than fighting against it to go to a destination we already have in mind. The reason why wu-wei is compelling is because it doesn’t discount the importance of action. You still have to show up and be present for whatever experience you are entering. If anything, the awareness of your mental state is elevated. But the difference here is that your action isn’t driven by a self-interested motive; rather, you are simply easing into the fluidity of the moment and seeing what happens. More To That (6 minutes)
Decades after Ted Kaczynski was caught, society is still asking some of the same questions about him: Is Ted a genius who went astray? Or simply a madman who murdered three people in cold blood? Project Unabom takes an in-depth look back at the Unabomber saga and Ted Kaczynski's legacy from the perspective of FBI agents who worked to solve the case, his brother who turned him in and Ted’s very own writings. Apple (240 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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When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. -Lao Tzu