Time to Read: 3 min 17 seconds | January 3, 2018
Good morning squad,
Happy New Year! Shake off that beer rust, Senator Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving republican in the Senate is retiring, paving the way for a potential run from Mitt Romney. Tides are shifting.
Here’s some stuff you may or may not care about.
Spare Time Links
- The World’s Largest Unsolved Art Heist, New York Times
- The Case for Rebuilding the NYC Subway, New York Times Magazine
- 2018 Principles of Good Design, Fast Company
Arab Winter. Antigovernment protests have roiled Iran this week, as the death toll rose to 21 and hundreds have been taken prisoner. This wave of demonstrations is led by young people in rural areas, towns, and small cities who blame the political establishment for hijacking the economy and leaving them struggling to find employment (unemployment among young people hovers around 40%). Here’s what to know:
- Demonstrations started after President Rouhani leaked a proposed government budget
- The leak revealed that billions of dollars were going to hard-line organizations, the military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and religious foundations that enrich the clerical elite
- It also revealed proposals that would end cash subsidies for millions of citizens, increase fuel prices, and privatize public schools.
The hot take…the Islamic clerical elite has long depended on conservative rural towns and villages for support and legitimacy. But Iran has experienced nearly a decade of drought that has driven rural folk into more urban areas. With better access to information and social media in these areas, many have started to feel that the clerics are hoarding the country’s wealth and maintaining a stranglehold on political power.
Venture Capital. 2018 won’t necessarily be the year of investing in new technologies, but rather the year of investing to mature existing technologies and reinvent community to coexist alongside technology. Here are some cool areas VC’s are focusing on this year:
- AI+Human: How can AI give humans superpowers rather than simply replacing them? Where are the investment opportunities that don’t remove the human component but rather dramatically enhance human capability?
- Community Businesses: People are experiencing technology overload. This presents an opportunity to focus on community and relationship-based businesses (i.e. co-working spaces) as an alternative.
- Synchronous Interactions: HQ Trivia has made it cool to do things with people at the same time, in the same place again. Bringing community together around live, in-person, technology-supported interactions presents a significant opportunity.
- e-Sports: The rise of online gaming — and more importantly it’s audience — opens an ecosystem to entrepreneurs looking to create the platforms and infrastructure that will make e-Sports more ubiquitous than real sports.
The hot take…headliner new technologies like AR/VR/MR, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, and automated driving have long roads ahead of them before they become truly mature. As people increasingly feel inundated with technology, innovation of the near future will be about finding ways to help humans use technology to return to their communal roots.
S&P 500: (+0.46%)
Peter Thiel bets on Bitcoin…Founders Fund, the venture-capital firm co-founded by billionaire investor Peter Thiel, has amassed a large fortune in bitcoin across several of its most recent funds. Sources say that Founders bought around $15M to $20M in bitcoin earlier in 2017 and that its investments are now worth hundreds of millions after bitcoin went bonanza a month ago.
The hot take…Thiel has made some pretty successful bets and is known for getting in the good games early. While relatively few mainstream investors have bought large sums of bitcoin — due to fears of liquidity and security — Thiel seems to be hedging his bets and reaping the rewards. Thiel is also one of a handful of celebrity VCs and investors who can singlehandedly move the market. Bitcoin spiked after the Wall Street Journal announced his fund’s investment. Thiel believes that there’s a chance Bitcoin could become the reserve equivalent of gold, owing to it’s limited quantity. That could make his investment extremely lucrative, but only time will tell.
Design & Culture
Good design is good writing. In his “2017 Design in Tech Report”, author John Maeda identified writing as one of designs newest and most important skills. UX writing is becoming one of the most popular specialties within the ever-growing field of user experience, owing in large part to the rise of chatbots and conversational UI (Alexa doesn’t just invent her own responses). But interface copy and interaction design is intricately intertwined with imagining users (characters), motivations, actions, reactions, obstacles, and successes. These are all skills of a writer — particularly fiction and screenwriting.
The hot take…grab that BA in English and move into tech. Many have predicted the fall of liberal arts degrees. But as we move beyond the technical advancements in technology and focus increasingly on the way that humans use these technologies, we have returned to our humanities roots to find better answers and more creative ways to bring technology into harmony with the human condition. Yay humanities!
Startup to Watch
Bio-Meat… Biotechnology never ceases to amaze. SuperMeat, an Israeli biotech and food-tech startup is developing lab-made chicken meat, or what people are calling ‘clean meat’. Clean meat is essentially produced by growing real animal cells and feeding them the correct nutrients to produce muscle and fat. The hope is that if lab-made meat can replace the butcher blocks, it would reduce the environmental impact that industrial farming has as well as contain food-borne illness.
The hot take…conventional farming is experiencing massive transformation as biotech makes it easier to grow things at speed and in smaller places. Companies have begun using rooftops in cities to grow vegetables in an effort to reduce time from seed to table as well as maximize space and resources. for SuperMeat, research suggests that switching to clean meat would reduce greenhouse emissions by 98 percent, land exploitation by 99 percent, and water usage by 96 percent. That being said, it remains to be seen if the average consumer views this as another form of GMO or something new altogether.
Did you know…
TV viewers who watch Netflix rather than normal ad-funded television could avoid 160 hours of ads every year. That’s the equivalent of a month of eight hour working days.
Be well and do good work.
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