Weekend Briefing No. 513
A historic moment for CRISPR.
Welcome to the weekend.
I was in a classic rock/’70s mood when I put together my December playlist. It features Fleetwood Mac, Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and Don McLean, as well as some more modern artists that work with that vibe. I hope you dig it.
Did your brilliant friend share this with you?
17 — Country music star Garth Brooks released his 17th album, "Time Traveler," exclusively in a seven-CD box set sold only at Bass Pro Shops, bypassing digital formats and traditional promotion for a unique distribution strategy.
23 — About 23% of Americans have not traveled internationally. Fifty percent of Americans have traveled to other countries but have visited four or fewer. Twenty-six percent of Americans have visited five or more countries.
5 — Taylor Swift is the first living artist to concurrently have five top 10 albums on the Billboard 200.
CRISPR and Sickle Cell
In a historic moment for gene editing technology, the U.K. has authorized the first-ever CRISPR-based medical treatment for patients with sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia, both inherited blood disorders. This onetime therapy, marketed as Casgevy in the U.K. and exa-cel in the U.S. pending FDA approval, leverages the Nobel Prize-winning CRISPR technology, often described as the molecular equivalent of "scissors," to potentially offer a cure for these previously untreatable conditions. WIRED (5 minutes)
The Path to AGI
The team at DeepMind is putting forward a framework for classifying the capabilities and behaviors of artificial general intelligence (AGI) models and their precursors across different levels of performance, generality and autonomy. Drawing on existing AGI definitions, they boiled down key principles like focusing on abilities rather than mechanisms and defining stages along the path to AGI. With these principles in mind, the "Levels of AGI" framework evaluates systems based on the depth and breadth of their skills. They discuss requirements for new benchmarks to quantify behaviors against these levels, as well as safe and responsible deployment issues. Overall, they hope this framework provides a common language to compare progress just as autonomous driving levels do, while emphasizing careful Human-AI Interaction. Arxiv (44 minutes)
Apple vs Basquiat: The surprising winner
What's one investing secret that billionaires like Jay Z and Ken Griffin know that you don’t? A market whose prices grew at an annualized rate of 33% from 1984 to 2022, outpacing the S&P 500, and stocks like Apple and Walmart. What is it? The market for Jean-Michel Basquiat’s art. And now, for the first time, everyday investors are getting in on the action thanks to Masterworks, the award-winning platform for investing in blue-chip art. Masterworks enables anyone to invest in paintings by artists like Basquiat, Banksy and Picasso for just a fraction of the cost. When Masterworks sells a painting, investors can get a return. All of their offerings are limited, and shares can sell out in just minutes. Luckily, Weekend Briefing readers can skip the waitlist with this exclusive link. Masterworks (Sponsored)
Marc Andreessen's recent essay "The Techno-Optimist Manifesto" champions unrestrained technological progress, citing its historical role in advancing health care, communication and economic development. While Andreessen's observation of technology's net positive impact is valid, his claim that all individual instances of progress are inherently good falls into the techno-optimist's fallacy. This fallacy arises from conflating the overall trend of technological advancement with the inherent goodness of each individual development. While technology has undoubtedly improved lives, history is full of examples where its individual applications have caused harm, such as environmental degradation, job displacement and social inequality. Instead of blind optimism, a techno-pragmatic approach is needed. This balanced perspective acknowledges both technology's potential benefits and inherent risks, advocating for its responsible development and deployment. By embracing this nuanced view, we can navigate the complexities of the technological landscape and maximize its positive impact while minimizing potential harm. This doesn't mean subscribing to the negativity of pessimists or ignoring the incredible progress technology has brought. Rather, it's about recognizing that progress isn't linear. Achieving a brighter future requires not just embracing innovation but actively shaping it with caution and foresight. Slow Boring (11 minutes)
In a fascinating video, journalist Chloe Abram challenges Atlas, the parkour-performing robot from Boston Dynamics, to a friendly competition. This encounter highlights the intriguing reality of Moravec's paradox: tasks requiring human-like motor and social skills remain difficult for robots while computationally demanding tasks like math and data analysis are easily accomplished by machines. While Atlas' physical prowess is undeniable, its limitations in perception and flexibility reveal the gap between human and robot capabilities. This serves as a crucial reminder that when interacting with human-like machines, we must avoid assuming human-level performance. The future of robotics lies in understanding and addressing these limitations, paving the way for technology that enhances our lives without replacing our unique human abilities. Huge if True (17 minutes)
Universal Personal Intern
Fear of artificial intelligence (AI) taking over jobs may be unfounded, according to Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired magazine. He believes AI is more likely to disrupt job descriptions than eliminate jobs entirely. Instead of replacing humans, current AI systems act as partners, interns and assistants, offering lower-case creativity. By leveraging AI's strengths, humans can become capital C Creative and embark on a new era of collaborative innovation. Imagine AI as your ultimate personal intern, freeing you to focus on tasks that require true human ingenuity. SXSW (57 minutes)
Powerpoint for Santa
Gone are the days of handwritten Christmas lists! Ben Galvani, a tech-savvy 11-year-old, knows the power of a well-crafted presentation. After suffering through some dud gifts last year, he took matters into his own hands this holiday season by creating a nine-page slide deck detailing every item on his wish list. This clever approach reflects a growing trend: tweens and teens are increasingly using their presentation skills, honed in school with Google Slides, Microsoft PowerPoint and Canva, to create high-tech holiday wishlists. These digital wishlists offer a clear and concise way to avoid unwanted gifts and ensure a happy holiday for everyone involved. Wall Street Journal (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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The way to build a complex system that works is to build it from very simple systems that work. -Kevin Kelly