Top Reads: October 2021

This month's issue of top reads covers Teslas in tunnels, the Buy Nothing movement, and dinosaur NFTs to benefit science.

Top Reads: October 2021

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1. Elon Musk’s Boring Company gets green light for Las Vegas tunnel system

The Verge | 5 minutes

“The system that was approved involves 29 miles of tunnels and 51 stations. Clark County says as many as 57,000 passengers will be able to travel through it per hour and that no taxpayer money will be spent to build it. The Boring Company previously said that it would foot the bill for building the main tunnels but planned to ask hotel casinos or other businesses that want a station to pay for those construction costs.”

A big milestone for Elon Musk’s other other business, The Boring Company. The pilot in Vegas, with its expansive reach, tourist draw and verticalized “Teslas in Tunnels” model, looks quite promising. That is, if safety, privacy and the founder’s multi-tasking can be managed.

2. Meet The World’s Richest 29-Year-Old: How Sam Bankman-Fried Made A Record Fortune In The Crypto Frenzy

Forbes | 9 minutes

“Four years ago, Bankman-Fried had yet to buy a single bitcoin. Now, five months shy of his 30th birthday, he debuts on this year’s Forbes 400 at No. 32, with a net worth of $22.5 billion. Save for Mark Zuckerberg, no one in history has ever gotten so rich so young. The irony? Bankman-Fried is no crypto evangelist. He’s barely even a believer. He’s a mercenary, dedicated to making as much money as possible (he doesn’t really care how) solely so he can give it away (he doesn’t really know to whom, or when).”

Interesting story about the biggest winner in crypto - a 29-year-old altruist who traded Bitcoin early, built the crypto exchange FTX from the ground up, and hopes to donate his wealth to make an impact.

3. Bitcoin Is Still Concentrated in Few Hands, Study Finds

Bloomberg | 4 minutes

“Our results suggest that despite the significant attention that Bitcoin has received over the last few years, the Bitcoin ecosystem is still dominated by large and concentrated players, be it large miners, Bitcoin holders or exchanges,” the researchers wrote. “This inherent concentration makes Bitcoin susceptible to systemic risk and also implies that the majority of the gains from further adoption are likely to fall disproportionately to a small set of participants.”

With Bitcoin still near an all-time high, this study is illuminating for me: ~⅓ of Bitcoin is held by 10k investors, and mining is even more stratified. At a glance, the wealth (and power) gap resembles the divide between rich and poor in any number of past societies.

4. What is a DAO?

Twitter | 5 minutes

“You keep doing more projects and people notice. Someone submits a proposal to give you a $150K salary for your hard work. There’s no CEO to approve this. Instead, all contributors vote and the proposal passes. So that’s how this startup (DAO) works: (1) Most people are part-time and work at multiple startups. (2) All decisions are transparent. (3) You earn the right to own more of the company by putting in the work.”

The rise of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, or DAOs, could mean big changes for how we define work (and even companies). If you’re active in a DAO, I’d love to hear about your experience.

5. Inside the World of Buy Nothing, Where Dryer Lint Is a Hot Commodity

NYT | 9 minutes

Illustration: Trisha Krauss
“Giving away the stuff that you no longer want is nothing new. Charities like the Salvation Army and Goodwill rely on these kinds of donations. And social media has made it easier for people to find free stuff on sites like Craigslist or through groups like Trash Nothing. But Buy Nothing turns the act of decluttering into a way to meet and befriend your neighbors.”

The Buy Nothing movement is a result of local communities embracing the circular economy. One person’s trash is another’s treasure!

6. Starving the Beast

Bill McKibben | 3 minutes

“Ten of the twenty richest colleges in America have now divested, the result of countless hours of work by activists; they’ve helped rob the oil industry of its social license, tarring its once-good name. The students and others who have done this work are heroes of the first order.”

This shift towards divestment at universities and pension funds is significant, and will undermine the efforts of large emitters to burn fossil fuels. Advocacy works, especially when the changes make economic sense. Take a minute to search if your alma mater has divested – and if not, what you can do to help.

7. Living ‘Bee Fences’ Protect Farmers from Elephants, and Vice Versa

Scientific American | 3 minutes

“Some 61 percent of farmers interviewed by Weinmann told her that the beehive fences are “more effective” than other deterrents, such as fashioning barriers out of thorn bushes, banging sheet metal, burning rubber tires to create acrid smoke or shining lit torches into elephants’ eyes.”

In Africa and Asia, elephants can be huge pests for farmers in their day-to-day lives. This creative “beehive fence” solution is healthy for the planet, empowering for families, and good for local livelihoods – to paraphrase Michael Scott, a true win-win-win conflict resolution scenario.

8. Trash Talk

Finch | 11 minutes

“Today, most of New York’s 12,000 tons of trash hauled by garbage trucks per day goes to transfer stations, from which it is shipped on barge or train to landfills outside of the city. At the end of the day, about 80% of NYC’s trash is landfill-bound, and 20% ends up at waste-to-energy plants, where it is burned and then converted into energy. Still, New York’s waste management system is far from perfect.”

Fascinating history of waste in NYC: from ocean dumping to incinerators, to coastal landfills, to a flawed waste transport system. We have a long way to go, but cities and their residents aren’t going anywhere. Do your part to reuse, compost and consider where your trash goes! P.S. - Finch has great write ups on everyday choices and sustainability.

9. Paradise lost: The rise and ruin of

Input | 22 minutes

"'That was the ethos: It’ll always be free,' says former director of legal and finance Shultz, who left of her own volition after Italy. 'All of a sudden, we’re trying to monetize this thing. It was a total clusterfuck.' The for-profit transition provoked outrage from vocal elements of the Couchsurfing membership and the company hired a PR firm to deal with the backlash."

This saga about is both new and familiar. The toxic tech culture we see all too often led to chaos, violence and a loyal community betrayed.

10. Paleontologist Jack Horner of Jurassic Park Fame Launches Dinosaur NFTs To Fund Scientific Research

Smart Kid Mag | 8 minutes

“Jack Horner is an extraordinary paleontologist who is now trying to change the way hunting for dinosaurs is funded - by selling images of dinosaurs as NFTs… Recently, Horner launched Jack Horner’s Dinosaurs - The Origin Collection, 10 different dinosaurs in 10 series for a total of 100 NFT images on OpenSea.”

A cool dinosaur NFT project to support scientific research. For dino nerds young and old!

Farewell, October! I hope you enjoyed these reads. Good luck with everything in the month ahead.