Discover more from Weekend Briefing
Weekend Briefing No. 509
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend.
Here’s my November playlist. Enjoy!
Did your brilliant friend share this with you?
$1.08 trillion — U.S. credit card balances rose to a record high of $1.08 trillion in the third quarter, up $48 billion from the previous quarter and $154 billion from a year ago — the largest year-over-year increase on record.
18.7 billion — WeWork filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It currently holds $18.7 billion in debt and $15 billion in assets. The bankruptcy caps off a series of setbacks for WeWork, valued at $47 billion at its height in early 2019.
1 — Taylor Swift's “1989 (Taylor’s Version),” a re-recording of her 2014 album, becomes Swift's 13th number 1 album on the Billboard charts and is the biggest album debut by any artist since 2015.
Big Thorny Problems
Technology aims to solve big, thorny problems. But with so many urgent issues, where should we focus? MIT Technology Review asked dozens of experts to identify the key problem at the technology-society intersection needing more attention. Melinda French Gates believes inclusive digital infrastructure can expand economic opportunities, especially for women in developing countries. Fei-Fei Li thinks industry dominates artificial intelligence (AI) research, so massive public investment is needed in an AI research center like CERN to serve the public good. Moshin Hamid is amazed that we can land rovers on Mars but not get clean water to all on Earth. Maybe we should focus on getting existing technologies to those who need them most. MIT Technology Review (10 minutes)
This short film documents the friendship between Bono of U2 and Eugene Peterson, author of The Message Bible translation. It centers on a conversation about the Psalms between Bono and Peterson at Peterson's Montana home. When asked why we need the Psalms, Bono said, “Why do we need the lyric poetry of the Psalms? Why do we need them? Because the only way we can approach God is, if we're honest, through metaphor, through symbol. Art becomes essential, not decorative.” Their heartwarming, honest conversation on the Psalms is definitely worth watching. It highlights their common interest in these lyric poems and the role of art in relating to God. Fuller Studio (21 minutes)
An Interest Rate Impervious Investment Opportunity
A new UBS report issued earlier this month revealed a surprising asset that could remain unaffected by today’s rising interest rate environment: art. It may sound unusual, but the global investment bank isn’t alone — Bank of America also recently noted that art auction volumes have remained strong despite rate hikes, stock market volatility and the risk of recession. While fine art is typically thought of as the sole domain of the ultra-wealthy, that is no longer the case. Thanks to the art investing platform Masterworks, anyone can invest in shares of blue-chip contemporary art at just a fraction of the cost. When Masterworks sells a painting, like the 16 it’s already sold, investors can get a return on their investment. With three recent sales, Masterworks investors realized net annualized returns of 17.6%, 21.5% and 35%. Weekend Briefing readers can skip the waitlist to join with this link. Masterworks (Sponsored)
Now and Then
Machine learning helped Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr turn “Now and Then,” an old John Lennon demo, into what’s likely the band’s last collaborative effort. The pivotal moment came earlier this decade when director Peter Jackson was working on his comprehensive Get Back documentary for Disney Plus. His team developed a technology that allowed them to take practically any piece of music (even ancient demos) and “split all the different components into separate tracks based on machine learning.” McCartney and Starr realized this was their opportunity to go back and give “Now and Then” the ending it deserved. “Now we could mix it and make a proper record of it,” McCartney said. The Verge (6 minutes)
Extremely Detailed Map of NYC
New Yorkers love to complain that developers and brokers invent neighborhood names. But the more interesting truth is that New Yorkers also reinvent and reinforce them. A name foreshadows who will move in and conjures gentrification, displacement and potentially inequality. When we argue over names or invent new ones, we try to seize some of that power — or lament that others have more. The New York Times asked New Yorkers to map and name their neighborhoods. The result, imperfect yet likely the most detailed ever, shows how we refract the city through our experiences. New York Times (11 minutes)
How Was Your Day?
Have you ever asked your kid "How was your day?" only to get a blank stare back? It turns out that's not the best question. More specific cues can help start the conversation. Instead of the broad "How was your day?" try "Did you go down the slide at recess?" or "I noticed turkey decorations in your classroom." Timing matters too. Let kids decompress after school before asking direct questions. The dinner table is a good routine time for remembering and sharing because there's space after the school day. Still, no tricks guarantee knowing all the details. Be patient. Accept that if they don’t want to talk, they don’t want to talk. You can share your own memories or observations from the day and see where the conversation goes. Slate (6 minutes)
Making friends was easy in college. Now, with marriage and kids, it's challenging. Clear guidelines are hard since friendship research is developing. But some points to consider: 1) Determine what you want in friends — one-on-one emotional connections or multi-person, task-oriented bonds. Pursue activities that attract your type. 2) Know it takes time — 30 hours for a casual friend, 140 for a good friend, 300 for a bestie. 3) Consider your strengths. Research shows that demonstrating desirable friend traits leads to more satisfying relationships. The key is understanding your needs and being patient. Invest time in shared interests to develop mutually fulfilling bonds. With realistic expectations, you can make meaningful adult friendships. The Conversation (7 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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The Psalms wrap nouns and verbs around our pain better than any other book. - Joni Eareckson Tada