Weekend Briefing No. 493
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend.
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1,300,000 — A Swedish state-owned company hit the motherlode: an estimated 1.3 million metric tons of rare earths outside of Kiruna, Sweden, 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle and the largest known deposit in Europe.
8 — The United States announced Friday it has finally destroyed its last stockpile of chemical weapons, making it the last of 8 countries that declared stocks under the Chemical Weapons Convention to destroy them.
2.3 — One recent study that relocated 69 beavers to a river basin found their dams cooled streams by 2.3 degrees Celsius at various times over the year, corroborating earlier studies that found the temperature cooling in the vicinity of those dams. That water also cools the land around it, so it’s a pretty big win all around.
Doing Hard Things
When a precocious, nonconformist teenager asks why they need to learn calculus, what should you say? There are any number of fine answers to this question, but perhaps the best answer is proof that you can do hard things. The ability to do hard things is crucial and valuable in life. It shapes our self-image and provides evidence of our capabilities. By challenging ourselves and accomplishing difficult tasks, we perceive ourselves as competent. If you prove to yourself that you’re competent over and over again, competence leads to confidence. On the other hand, avoiding challenging situations can make even mildly difficult tasks seem overwhelming. Building a track record of overcoming difficult challenges is a powerful asset in life. Nat Eliason (7 minutes)
What’s your take? Do you agree with this argument that doing hard things is an essential skill?
The Modern Turing Test
The Turing Test is a subjective evaluation of whether a machine can exhibit intelligent behavior indistinguishable from that of a human. Some believe that Chat GPT-4 may be close to passing the test. (Note: I asked GPT-4. It basically said that in specific instances, it could pass the test but, “In any case, it's important to understand that passing the Turing Test doesn't necessarily mean an AI truly understands the content it's generating in the way humans do. It simply means it can generate responses that are difficult to distinguish from those a human might provide.”) Mustafa Suleyman proposes a new test called the Modern Turing Test, which evaluates an AI's ability to achieve real-world impact rather than just replicating human-like conversation. The proposed test challenges the AI to make $1 million on a retail web platform with a limited investment. The author suggests that such a test would require the AI to perform complex tasks like product research, negotiation and marketing, with minimal human oversight. The article acknowledges that while some technical advancements and frameworks are already in place, there are still challenges in hierarchical planning, reliable memory, security and ethics. Passing the Modern Turing Test would signify a significant milestone in the world economy, as AIs would become highly capable agents capable of performing various tasks and potentially replacing human workers in many domains. MIT Technology Review (7 minutes)
“Risk-free” 5% return means missing out on 35%
Thanks to this year’s interest rate hikes, investors can finally earn more on their cash than the .01% rate their checking account was giving them. But while having a “risk free” return seems comforting, there’s a hidden cost banks don’t want you to consider: opportunity, like the opportunity to invest in Masterworks, an award-winning platform for investing in blue-chip art. So far, it has achieved a 100% positive net returns track record for investors, with recent exits delivering 17.8%, 21.5% and 35% annualized net returns. You can’t afford to risk only getting 5% returns, especially if you’re hoping to retire one day. But with a track record like this, Masterworks’ offerings can sell out in minutes. However, Weekend Briefing readers can skip the waitlist to join and claim their free account with this exclusive link. Masterworks (Sponsored)
Another week, another AI model announcement. Meta has announced that it is open-sourcing its large language model LLaMA 2, making it available for free commercial and research use. This move puts Meta in competition with OpenAI's GPT-4. LLaMA 2 was trained on more data compared to its predecessor and is said to outperform other language models in reasoning, coding, proficiency and knowledge tests. Meta aims to improve safety and transparency by red-teaming the model and disclosing the evaluation and tweaking processes. This open approach is intended to encourage community experimentation and problem-solving. The original version of LLaMA received over 100,000 requests from researchers, and the open-sourced LLaMA 2 is expected to have an even larger impact. The Verge (6 minutes)
Jason Belmonte’s two-handed technique made him an outcast. Then it made him the greatest and changed the sport forever. When he first alighted on the scene, Belmo, as he’s known to his fans, resembled an alien species: one that bowled with two hands. And not some granny shot, to be clear. It’s a power move that explodes the pins. Not everyone welcomed his arrival. He’s been called a cheat and told to go back to his native Australia. A PBA Hall of Famer once called the two-hander a “cancer to an already diseased sport.” “He’s exactly like Tiger Woods,” said PBA Commissioner Tom Clark. “The domination, the difference, the electricity, the controversy. People don’t like him because he’s too humble, or because he’s from Australia, or they think he’s arrogant because he’s better looking than they are, or something. They’ve got a million reasons why.” Perhaps the main reason is that for much of recent memory, he’s simply been better. He’s won 15 major titles, four more than anyone else in history, and seven Player of the Year awards, tied for the most of all time. Even as the rest of the tour has narrowed the gap, challenging his supremacy, he’s found ways to maintain it. Today, a growing faction of two-handers headline the PBA Tour, some of them major winners, with even more rising in the youth ranks: kids who want to hook it like Belmo, who want to send the pins into concussion protocol. GQ (11 minutes)
Tequila v Mezcal
Tequila and mezcal are both made by distilling fermented agave, but there are variations in the production methods. Tequila can only be made in specific regions of Mexico while mezcal can be produced in several states. Tequila is limited to using the Tequilana Blue Weber agave, while mezcal can be made from various types of agave. Mezcal must be bottled within the designated states while tequila can be bottled outside the Denomination of Origin. The differences in taste between tequila and mezcal can be attributed to variations in production methods, which range from pre-industrial to industrial. Mezcal production is significantly smaller than tequila production, allowing many mezcal brands to maintain traditional production methods. However, as demand grows, industrialization may impact the flavor profiles of both spirits. InsideHook (6 minutes)
5 Best Treks
If you’re looking to plan some adventure, check out these beautiful photos of what some consider the world’s five best treks. Enjoy. BBC (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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Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. -Helen Keller