Improvement, Burgers, and Science

11/19 - What's Next

Hey there 👋 Hope you have a great Thanksgiving.

This week, I have a really interesting opportunity for you…

My friend Ben and I are pairing the most ambitious people we know (anywhere in the world) as a way to spark new ideas and projects.

Drop your info here (by 12/1) and we’ll introduce you to 2/3 incredible people. This is going to be awesome, seriously an amazing opportunity.

Articles to Read.

How This All Happened (really an amazingly clear perspective)

This is a short story about what happened to the U.S. economy since the end of World War II.

If you fell asleep in 1945 and woke up in 2018 you would not recognize the world around you. The amount of growth that took place during that period is virtually unprecedented. If you learned that there have been no nuclear attacks since 1945, you’d be shocked. If you saw the level of wealth in New York and San Francisco, you’d be shocked. If you compared it to the poverty of Detroit, you’d be shocked. If you saw the price of homes, college tuition, and health care, you’d be shocked. Our politics would blow your mind. And if you tried to think of a reasonable narrative of how it all happened, my guess is you’d be totally wrong. Because it isn’t intuitive, and it wasn’t foreseeable 73 years ago.

I Found the Best Burger Place in America. And Then I Killed It.

After eating 330 burgers during a 30-city search, I was naming Stanich’s cheeseburger the best burger in America. That same day, we filmed a short video to announce my pick.

Five months later, in a story in The Oregonian, restaurant critic Michael Russell detailed how Stanich’s had been forced to shut down. In the article, Steve Stanich called my burger award a curse, “the worst thing that’s ever happened to us.”

Science Is Getting Less Bang for Its Buck

Despite vast increases in the time and money spent on research, progress is barely keeping pace with the past. What went wrong?

In fact, just three discoveries made since 1990 have been awarded Nobel Prizes.

The truth is, there is nothing—there is nothing—of the same order of magnitude as the accomplishments of the invention of quantum mechanics or of the double helix or of relativity. Just nothing like that has happened in the last few decades.

Improving Ourselves to Death

In our current era of non-stop technological innovation, fuzzy wishful thinking has yielded to the hard doctrine of personal optimization. Self-help gurus need not be charlatans peddling snake oil. Many are psychologists with impressive academic pedigrees and a commitment to scientific methodologies, or tech entrepreneurs with enviable records of success in life and business. What they’re selling is metrics. It’s no longer enough to imagine our way to a better state of body or mind. We must now chart our progress, count our steps, log our sleep rhythms, tweak our diets, record our negative thoughts—then analyze the data, recalibrate, and repeat.

The desire to achieve and to demonstrate perfection is not simply stressful; it can also be fatal, according to the British journalist Will Storr. His forthcoming book, “Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us” (Overlook), opens, alarmingly, with a chapter on suicide. Storr is disturbed by the prevalence of suicide in the United States and Britain, and blames the horror and shame of failing to meet the sky-high expectations we set for ourselves. He cites surveys that show that adolescent girls are increasingly unhappy with their bodies, and that a growing number of men are suffering from muscle dysmorphia; he interviews psychologists and professors who describe an epidemic of crippling anxiety among university students yoked to the phenomenon of “perfectionist presentation”—the tendency, especially on social media, to make life look like a string of enviable triumphs. Storr confesses that he, too, is dogged by self-loathing and suicidal thoughts. “We’re living in an age of perfectionism, and perfection is the idea that kills,” he writes. “People are suffering and dying under the torture of the fantasy self they’re failing to become.”

Own the Demand

Every layer here between you and Google represents some control they give up over the end-user experience and relinquish to the owner of that layer: Firefox for the browser, Apple for the OS and computer, Comcast for the ISP, etc… That’s one big reason why Google gets into the business of building OSes (Android, Chrome OS), computers (Chromebooks), browsers (Chrome) and even took a stab at taking over your Internet access (Google Fiber, Google Fi).

All these giants are keenly aware that they’re building their castle on somebody else’s yard; and they’re afraid that the floor may drop out from under them. You can find one recent justification for this fear in Apple’s last release of iOS and MacOS, which significantly curtails the ability of online advertisers to track your online whereabouts. That’s Facebook’s bread and butter we’re talking about! Other famous examples are Facebook basically killing Zynga in 2012; or Twitter a bunch of 3rd party clients.

In short, if somebody successfully inserts themselves between you and your customer, they can exercise tremendous control over you, including taking a big chunk of your profits or outright killing you.

Smarter cities: How private markets are reshaping the urban landscape

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the United States a "D+" in its most recent Infrastructure Report Card, warning, "Deteriorating infrastructure is impeding our ability to compete in the thriving global economy, and improvements are necessary to ensure our country is built for the future." In a 2016 economic study, the ASCE estimated that the dilapidated state of the nation's roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure will result in $3.9 trillion in losses to economic output, $7 trillion in lost business sales and 2.5 million lost jobs by 2025.

Much of that infrastructure was built in the middle of the 20th century when the nation's population was smaller and more widely dispersed. In 1960, there were roughly 181 million US residents, according to Census Bureau data, versus 309 million in 2010. Then, around 70% of the population lived in urban cores. By 2010, almost 81% did.

No Innovation Without Representation

Getting more technical expertise in D.C. will take years, but there are several actionable ways we can begin bridging the gap between Capitol Hill and Silicon Valley.

More to Check Out: 
Figure Out Who’s On Your Team
- The Constitution of Knowledge
Blockchain archipelagos
- At Netflix, Who Wins When It’s Hollywood vs. the Algorithm?
- How New Apple Maps Works

Kudos (to people in the community).

My Update.

  • Looking to meet ambitious people? Trying to find projects to work on? As I mentioned, we’re pairing up the best people we know (from across the world) to spark conversations and new ideas. Drop your info here :) Share with any driven friends!

  • Duke was awesome last week. In Arizona now for Thanksgiving Break. Good to be back.

  • A few friends and I launched Magnet - a dead-simple way to automatically collect your email’s responses in a google sheet.

  • Let me know how I can be helpful in anyway whatsoever.

Thanks so much for reading! Find me on twitter : )