Discover more from Weekend Briefing
Weekend Briefing No. 508
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend.
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1,000,000 — Microsoft has a million paying users for its large language model (LLM) coding assistant.
6,500 — James Webb Space Telescope captures images of the Crab Nebula, located roughly 6,500 light years away; analysis is expected to shed light on the origins of the supernova remnant, which appeared in the night sky in the mid-11th century.
1 — Study finds a 1% reduction in deep sleep annually after the age of 60 is linked to a 27% increase in the risk of developing dementia.
AI Standards in the U.S.
President Biden issued an executive order to guide the U.S. in harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) while managing its risks. The eight-part order aims to address fears around AI’s potential role in propagating biases, displacing workers and undermining national security. It also builds on prior actions, including collaborations with 15 companies for responsible AI development. Key directives include requiring significant AI system developers to share safety test results with the government, developing standards to ensure AI system safety and security, and implementing measures against AI-enabled fraud and dangerous biological material engineering. Some say this is a step in the right direction; others think this is not enough. The White House (7 minutes)
The Crimes Behind Our Seafood
Americans know little about where their seafood comes from. Much of it comes from a vast fleet of Chinese ships. In the past few decades, partly in an effort to project its influence abroad, China has dramatically expanded its distant-water fishing fleet. Chinese firms now own or operate terminals in 95 foreign ports. China estimates that it has 2,700 distant-water fishing ships though this figure does not include vessels in contested waters; public records and satellite imaging suggest that the fleet may be closer to 6,500 ships. (The U.S. and the E.U., by contrast, have fewer than 300 distant-water fishing vessels each.) Some ships that appear to be fishing vessels press territorial claims in contested waters, including in the South China Sea and around Taiwan. “This may look like a fishing fleet, but, in certain places, it’s also serving military purposes,” Ian Ralby, who runs I.R. Consilium, a maritime-security firm, told me. China’s preëminence at sea has come at a cost. The country is largely unresponsive to international laws, and its fleet is the worst perpetrator of illegal fishing in the world, helping drive species to the brink of extinction. Its ships are also rife with labor trafficking, debt bondage, violence, criminal neglect and death. “The human rights abuses on these ships are happening on an industrial and global scale,” Steve Trent, the C.E.O. of the Environmental Justice Foundation, said. New Yorker (39 minutes)
This is What Impact Looks Like
While we use data all the time to understand our portfolio’s impact in the world, seeing their impact through the faces of those whose lives have been changed for the better is so much more powerful in understanding what impact looks like on the ground. The world we live in has never been more challenging and is daunting in every way, often creating a sense of hopelessness. Seeing what impact looks on the ground not only reminds us every day of the possible and how one human being can make a difference in the lives of others, but it is the best antidote to feeling hopeless. We hope you will take as much joy in seeing what impact looks like as much as we do. DRK Foundation (Sponsored)
Physicist Richard Feynman, for example, liked to keep a list of his dozen favorite problems. These were big, open-ended questions that could guide his life’s work. Feynman realized that genius is not having all the answers. Everything starts with asking the right questions. Writer Ted Gioia has his own list. Here are some of my favorites: 1) How can music change people’s lives? 2) How can creativity, intellectual vitality and learning be maintained in the face of inescapable obstacles (ex. earning a living, aging, financial hardship, residing far from major cultural centers)? 3) How can I protect or nurture local styles and perspectives in an increasingly globalized and homogenized culture? 4) How do I avoid becoming a narrow specialist or a superficial generalist? Is there a third way? If so, how do I get there? The Honest Broker (12 minutes)
Confusion and Certainty
When facing a complex problem, it’s easy to become confused. Lately, it’s become socially acceptable to express your confusion with certainty, whether or not you’ve actually put in the work to have an informed opinion. Confusion shared often leads to the learning we need to become productive as we move forward. “I don’t understand this,” is a great thing to say before someone helps you understand it. On the other hand, certainty is almost guaranteed to maintain your confusion, particularly when the thing you were sure of doesn’t work. Seth’s Blog (1 minute)
Decorative Gourd Season
This is a classic McSweeney’s satire on autumn décor. It cracks me up every year. Here’s an excerpt: I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is going to look so seasonal. I’m about to head up to the attic right now to find that wicker fucker, dust it off and jam it with an insanely ornate assortment of shellacked vegetables. When my guests come over it’s gonna be like “BLAMMO! Check out my shellacked decorative vegetables, assholes. Guess what season it is — fucking fall.” There’s a nip in the air, and my house is full of mutant-fucking squash. I may even throw some multi-colored leaves into the mix, all haphazard like a crisp October breeze just blew through and fucked that shit up. McSweeney’s (5 minutes)
Nothing Compares 2U
One million Dubliners give a spine-tingling and heartwarming tribute to Sinéad O’Connor. I watched this a number of times this week. There’s something transcendent about a group this size singing with all their heart. My version of Heaven definitely has a lot of this. Choir! Choir! Choir! (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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See that the imagination of nature is far, far greater than the imagination of man. - Richard Feynman