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Weekend Briefing No. 510
What makes religion and politics such a conversational minefield?
Welcome to the weekend.
Did your brilliant friend share this with you?
35 — The Beatles artificial intelligence (AI)-aided song "Now and Then" becomes their record 35th song, and their first since 1996, to reach the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
28 — Obesity drug Wegovy cut the rate of heart attacks by 28% for patients already taking heart medication, cardiovascular deaths by 15% and stroke incidents by 7%.
25 — Here is a ranked list of the 25 best cover songs of all time. What’s your favorite?
What makes religion and politics such a conversational minefield? Perhaps it’s that politics and religion easily become part of people's identity, which makes fruitful discussion impossible since partisanship prevents examining assumptions. The more labels people use to define themselves, the harder it becomes to think clearly about topics engaging those identities. Therefore, to have better ideas, make your identity small. Let as little as possible become part of your identity, and avoid partisan labels. Most people reading this will already be fairly tolerant. But there is a step beyond thinking of yourself as x but tolerating y: not even to consider yourself an x. The more labels you have for yourself, the less curious you become. Paul Graham (5 minutes)
2023 Best Inventions
TIME's annual “Best Inventions” list highlights ingenious solutions to modern problems. A graphene radiator leverages the material's thermal conductivity for efficient heating. The Sphere's massive LED exterior envelops a state-of-the-art concert venue now hosting U2. Brimstone's carbon-negative cement substitutes calcium silicate rock for emissions-heavy limestone. The list showcases human creativity tackling issues like energy use, entertainment and climate change through advances like efficient heating, multifunctional architecture and reduced-carbon materials. While the innovations span a range of fields, they share a focus on sustainability, efficiency and pushing boundaries. TIME's coverage provides an optimistic look at technology's potential to build a better future. TIME (20 minutes)
There’s a 911 with 911 Access
We have an emergency with our emergency response system. Three weeks ago, our country suffered another mass shooting, this time in Lewiston, Maine where 18 people lost their lives. While there is often little warning for these horrific acts, for four lives tragically lost within the deaf community, a 911 warning could never have been made because our 911 system is a voice-based system. Fifty percent of approximately 6,000 emergency call centers across the U.S. cannot receive anything other than a voice call, despite mobile devices accounting for more than 80% of the inbound 911 requests annually. These traditional and outdated systems create dangerous barriers to emergency services for the 65 million Americans who cannot easily communicate by phone or in English. Gabriella Wong, founder of accesSOS, a DRK Foundation portfolio organization, says there is a critical need for equal access to 911 services and has created a text-based solution for everyone to get the help they need in an emergency. DRK Foundation (Sponsored)
An Audacious Proposal
Erin Matson has been described as the Michael Jordan of field hockey. She led her UNC Tar Heels to four consecutive national championships on the field. With her coach retiring, the senior Matson made an audacious proposal to the athletic director — she wanted the head coaching position. Just 72 days after playing her last game and barely a month after graduating, the 22-year-old Matson got the job. Now 23, she’s the youngest head coach in any Division I sport. Matson recognizes the strangeness of her situation. A year ago, she was out with her now-players after games. She can't do that anymore. She also has difficult conversations about playing time and scholarships with recent peers. However, the scoreboard doesn't lie . This weekend, her top-seeded Tar Heels play in the Final Four. Matson has clearly justified UNC's faith in her. Wall Street Journal (9 minutes)
Machines Versus Humans
When it comes to grocery shopping, there seem to be two types of people: those who prefer self-checkout and those who prefer human interaction. Booths, a small chain in northern England since 1847, has decided its customers belong to the latter group. This week, they announced the removal of self-checkouts from all but two of their 28 stores, bucking a 20-year global retail trend. Self-checkout can be quick when it works: Stack groceries, swipe a card, bag and go. But it often falls short of this ideal. The machine doesn't recognize an item. You click a zucchini but have a cucumber. Buying alcohol or medicine still requires employee assistance. For Booths, their customers value human connection over transactional efficiency. So, they are swimming against the self-service tide in favor of more personal shopping experiences. New York Times (7 minutes)
Child Street Vendors
Street vending is an important income source for Delhi's urban poor. Harvard Ph.D. student Ronak Jain studied this market using observation, surveys and experiments with vendors. By randomizing prices and passersby solicited, she found child vendors make 97% more sales and earn over twice as much as adults despite no difference in product value. Females and couples are 90% and 27% more likely to buy than males. They're also 50% more likely to be targeted and charged 1.15 to two times more than males. Jain shows these findings fit a model incorporating altruism and refusal costs in buyer decisions. Passersby are more altruistic toward children than adults. Vendors target females and couples as finding refusal harder. The paper demonstrates that sellers leverage insights into social preferences to inform effective personal selling strategies in these markets. Marginal Revolution (3 minutes)
Subtle Downside of Wealth
The upsides of wealth are obvious and measurable. But the downsides tend to be more subtle. Here is a collection of subtle downsides that are easy to ignore and so common you may as well call them the only true laws of getting rich. 1) Most of what makes you happy in life has nothing to do with money; realizing that after you have money can be a painful admission. Rick Rubin once said: “It’s hard to get really depressed until your dreams come true. Once your dreams come true and you realize you feel the same way you did before then you get a feeling of hopelessness.” 2) What you think is admiration of your success may actually be envy. The rapper Drake once said, “People like you more when you are working toward something, not when you have it.” 3) Expectations can rise faster than income, so a higher income sends expectations spiraling out of control. Everything good in life is just the gap between expectations and reality, and when your main frame of reference is other rich people trying to impress each other, that gap can close quickly. Collab Fund (8 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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I don't look to jump over 7-foot bars. I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over. -Warren Buffett