Weekend Briefing No. 443
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society.
Welcome to the weekend. Here’s my August playlist. Enjoy!
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6.4%—People who remained in their jobs during the previous three months increased their wages by 4.7%, while those who switched jobs got a raise of 6.4%. That’s the largest difference between the two values in the past two decades.
25%—Of any artist who charted on Spotify in 2020 and 2021, there were 332 that had never before charted on the streaming service. Of those 332 newcomers, fully 25% of them came from TikTok, which has become a new path into the music business for the right kind of song.
400,000—Last year, the U.S. Forest Service planted 60,000 acres, but it plans to scale up to 400,000 acres a year, mostly in western states as part of its programs to replant forests that have burned down due to wildfire.
Be Calm. Be Urgent.
Drawing on his decades-long experience in tech (he’s been an entrepreneur and early-stage investor since 1987), Brad Feld has some advice for entrepreneurs during the current downturn. (1) New companies being created in the next couple of years are going to be some of the extraordinary winners 10 years from now. One of the reactions a lot of people have when things become stressful—especially exogenously, as the macro environment shifts—is to panic. But something I’ve learned over and over again is that some of the greatest returns come from these moments. (2) Be calm, but be urgent. What’s really important is that the team looks clinically at what’s going on and makes those deliberate decisions without letting the emotion of all the other things that are flying around get in the way. Techstars (8 minutes)
Creepy or Cool?
New products that let people keep relatives "alive" via artificial intelligence are proliferating—offering, say, an interactive conversation with a recently departed dad who took the time to record a video interview before he passed. As interest in genealogy and ancestry proliferates, these tools let families preserve memories and personal connections through generations—even giving children a sense of the physical presence of a relative who died before they were born. This growing number of tools helps people create interactive digital memories of relatives. Many of them don't require the relative to be alive during setup. Amazon recently showed off an experimental Alexa feature that can read books aloud in the voice of a late relative, extrapolating from a snippet of that person's recorded voice. MyHeritage, the ancestry-tracing site, now offers "Deep Nostalgia," a tool for animating old-timey photographs of your relatives. HereAfter AI lets you record stories about yourself and pair them with photographs—so family members can ask you about your life and experiences. Microsoft has obtained a patent to create "chatbots" that mimic individual people (dead or alive) based on their social media posts and text messages. Axios (6 minutes)
Hedge like 67% of Wealth Advisors
The next recession isn’t just coming—it’s already here. So it’s no surprise that CNBC just revealed 67% of top financial advisors are trading their exposure to public equities for exposure to alternative investments. In fact, the majority suggested 1/5th of a total portfolio should be devoted to alternatives during volatile times–like right now. What makes art an attractive alternative? It’s a $2 trillion asset class that's been largely ignored because of its barriers to entry, despite appreciating more than 3x the S&P in the last 25 years. But Masterworks has shattered those barriers. Now, anyone can invest in multi-million dollar paintings by names like Picasso and Banksy. Since inception in Sep. 2019, their investments have generated 15.3% net annualized appreciation. With results like that, it makes sense that 493,000 users have already signed up. The only downside? Shares are limited, and typically sell out in just hours. But you can skip the waitlist with this referral link. Masterworks (Sponsored)
If a friend was visiting your home and it was dinnertime, would you invite them to the table? Or would you chow down without sharing a bite? These questions are the crux of a Twitter thread that went viral in May. It all began when a user on Reddit explained how this person once went to a Swedish friend's house "and while we were playing in his room, his mom yelled that dinner was ready. And check this. He told me to WAIT in his room while they ate." Apparently, Swedes think feeding a guest creates a sense of obligation. And in a society that values equality and independence, people don't want to put a burden on someone or feel like they owe someone something. The reactions on social media have been pretty fun to watch. NPR (7 minutes)
Birds Aren’t Real
Gen Z has a new conspiracy theory that posits that birds don’t exist. They’re accused of being drone replicas installed by the U.S. government to spy on Americans, while occasionally charging on power lines. Hundreds of thousands of young people have joined the movement, wearing “Birds Aren’t Real” T-shirts, swarming rallies and spreading the slogan. It might smack of QAnon, the conspiracy theory that the world is controlled by an elite cabal of child-trafficking Democrats. Except that the creator of “Birds Aren’t Real” and the movement’s followers are in on a joke: They know that birds are, in fact, real and that their theory is made up.What “Birds Aren’t Real” truly is, they say, is a parody social movement with a purpose. In a post-truth world dominated by online conspiracy theories, young people have coalesced around the effort to thumb their nose at, fight and poke fun at misinformation. It’s Gen Z’s attempt to upend the rabbit hole with absurdism. New York Times (9 minutes)
This is an amazingly well-done website that simply shows historical computer user interfaces, starting with the Xerox Alto in 1973 and going all the way to Mac Snow Leopard in 2007. If you’re into design and computers, it’s a fun scroll. User Interface (10 minutes)
Scott Adams, the famous creator of Dilbert, has made a very good living by understanding and revealing human psychology. Here are some of his thoughts on success: (1) In the morning, he is a creator. In the afternoon, he’s a copier. Mindless tasks go later in the day. “This is the single biggest change you can make to improve your odds of success. The way I approach the problem of multiple priorities is by focusing on just one main metric: my energy. I make choices that maximize my personal energy because that makes it easier to manage all of the other priorities. One of the most important tricks for maximizing your productivity involves matching your mental state to the task.” (2) Systems trump goals. “Systems People succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. Goals People are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy in the right direction.” Farnam Street (5 minutes)
Move Fast. Don’t Break Things.
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 fixed, 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 call.
The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed. It is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results. -Carl Jung
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