Weekend Briefing No. 496
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend.
Did your brilliant friend share this with you?
80 – The Benio cherry is all the rage in Tokyo where they sell for over $80 for a small bucket.
6:19 – Dinner time in America peaks at 6:19 p.m., according to a new analysis of the American Time Use Survey, with most households eating dinner between 5:07 p.m. and 8:19 p.m.
6 – In 2022, the 42 songs that graced the top five of the Hot 100 averaged six songwriters, averaging five men and one woman.
AI’s Oppenheimer Moment
Just like the development of the atomic bomb, we have now arrived at a crossroad in the science of computing, a crossroad that connects engineering and ethics, where we will again have to choose whether to proceed with the development of a technology whose power and potential we do not yet fully apprehend. This is an arms race of a different kind, and it has begun. A reluctance to grapple with the often grim reality of an ongoing geopolitical struggle for power poses its own danger. Our adversaries will not pause to indulge in theatrical debates about the merits of developing technologies with critical military and national security applications. They will proceed. Our hesitation, perceived or otherwise, to move forward with military applications of artificial intelligence will be punished. The ability to develop the tools required to deploy force against an opponent, combined with a credible threat to use such force, is often the foundation of any effective negotiation with an adversary. We must not, however, shy away from building sharp tools for fear they may be turned against us. New York Times (10 minutes)
What do you think about AI weapons?
The AI Pivot
While tech workers are dealing with pay stagnation, layoffs and generally less demand for their skills than they’d enjoyed for the past decade, the artificial intelligence (AI) specialist has become the new “it” girl in Silicon Valley. As tech companies and investors pull back seemingly everywhere else in tech, money is still flowing into AI, which the industry sees as the next big thing. That’s meant outsized demand, pay and perks for people who can facilitate that kind of work. This situation is incredibly attractive to people who’ve recently been laid off in tech or who worry that their tech jobs don’t have the upward mobility they used to. To capitalize on this, people in adjacent tech careers are attempting to reposition themselves where the good jobs are. Vox (7 minutes)
Leveraging Technology for Humanity
Every year, 17 million lives are lost to surgically treatable conditions - 5x greater than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined. 81 million people worldwide face the heart-wrenching choice of receiving life-saving surgical care or risking financial catastrophe for their family. Despite these startling statistics, access to safe surgery remains vastly underfunded. Watsi, a DRK portfolio organization, is on a mission to change this. With their innovative crowdfunding technology platform, Watsi directly connects anyone, anywhere in the world with patients who are in need of surgery but cannot afford it. 100% of every donation made on watsi.org directly supports patient care, and the best part is: it’s actually saving lives. What started as a simple idea 10 years ago has now grown into a global movement, raising $16 million to help more than 25,000 patients across 31 countries. Through authentic storytelling and radical transparency, Watsi is demonstrating the power of technology to deepen human connection and save lives. DRK Foundation (Sponsored)
Geothermal in Massachusetts
The shift to more sustainable heating and cooling usually happens home by home, as individual homeowners install heat pumps to replace fossil-powered furnaces. But in Framingham, Massachusetts, a neighborhood is making the transition together. This week, the local gas utility Eversource broke ground on a networked geothermal system that will connect to around 40 buildings, including low-income apartments, single-family homes, small businesses and the neighborhood fire station. Instead of burning fossil fuels for heat, the buildings will rely on zero-emissions heat from underground, along with electricity. It’s the first pilot project of its kind run by a utility in the U.S. Fast Company (6 minutes)
What is going on inside the Audubon Society is a microcosm of the debates that have roiled organizations across the country since 2020. Companies, governments and campuses, driven by the energy of groups like Black Lives Matter, committed themselves to ambitious plans to change policing and corporate culture. Many found themselves caught between a desire to appeal to a younger, more diverse generation and the objections of others who said the changes they were considering went too far. Audubon’s case is an example of the complications that can arise in a post-2020 world when an organization tries, or fails, to meet those expectations, especially when the expectations fall outside of the organization’s traditional mission. For example, what does bird conservation have to do with social justice? New York Times (13 minutes)
The history of beekeeping in America has led to a significant focus on almond pollination in California's Central Valley, where more than 1 million acres of almond trees bloom each year. This mass pollination event involves thousands of beekeepers and 31 billion honeybees, making up 60% of all U.S. bees. The practice of almond pollination has its roots dating back to the 19th century, coinciding with the growth of California's agricultural industry. However, it also comes with challenges, including the extensive use of pesticides that harm bees and contribute to colony losses. Despite the risks, beekeepers, who prioritize their bees' health, continue to find ways to sustain their colonies and maintain their livelihoods. The Ringer (16 minutes)
The Weirdest and Most Chaotic Soccer Match Ever
Normal time ended with an intentional own goal and one team trying to score on either net and the other team defending both nets. Oh, and the match ended with a goal that was worth two goals. It’s hard to explain. You’ve just got to watch. Secret Base (6 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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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. -Henry David Thoreau