Weekly Dose of Optimism #5
CHIPS Act, Inflation Reduction Act, Protein Folding, Garbage Removal, Carbon Capture
Come for the Optimism, stay for the in-depth analyses of tech companies and trends:
Hi friends 👋,
Happy Friday! Welcome to our 5th Weekly Dose of Optimism, where we celebrate the incredible accomplishments humans manage to pull off and the progress that we’re — unsteadily and windingly — making.
It’s been awesome to see the positive response to the Weekly Dose so far. If you’re enjoying it, spread the optimism.
The Weekly Dose is brought to you by my daily dose… Athletic Greens
It’s easier to be optimistic when you start your day right. Every morning, I drink a homemade concoction starring Athletic Greens’ AG1. Join me. Not Boring optimists can get a free one-year supply of Vitamin D and 5 travel packs when you order with the special Not Boring link.
(1) Senate Passes $280 Billion Industrial Policy Bill to Counter China
Catie Edmonson for The New York Times
The bill, a convergence of economic and national security policy, would provide $52 billion in subsidies and additional tax credits to companies that manufacture chips in the United States. It also would add $200 billion for scientific research, especially into artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing and a variety of other technologies.
Earlier this week, the US Senate passed a $280 billion bill, known as the Chips Act, and yesterday, it passed the House 243-187-1, with 24 Republicans joining the party. The bill is a proof point that bipartisanship is still possible, and a good example of the point I made Monday: that a common enemy can spur action.
In this case, the bill is intended to improve America’s competitiveness against China by reshoring semiconductor manufacturing and funding more scientific research. An earlier version of the bill was explicit in its name: United States Innovation and Competition Act. But wait, there’s more…
(2) Machin’s Latest Shocker: A $700B Deal
Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine for Politico
The Manchin-Schumer deal includes roughly $370 billion in energy and climate spending, $300 billion in deficit reduction, three years of subsidies for Affordable Care Act premiums, prescription drug reform and significant tax changes.
I’m sorry for doing back-to-back US legislation deals, but this is major! A few days after I wrote about how everyone was talking past each other, and a week after I shared an Op-Ed titled “What Joe Manchin Cost Us,” members of the US government were able to agree on not one, but two, big deals that include a lot of the kinds of things we like over here at Not Boring.
In deal #2, Manchin and Chuck Schumer agreed on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which includes $370 billion in energy and climate spending that could, as Green Vortex coiner Robinson Meyer points out, get the US a very nice 69.69% of the way to meeting the 2030 climate goal. It still needs to pass the Senate and House.
In a side deal, Manchin, Schumer, and legendary day-trader Nancy Pelosi are working on advancing permitting reforms, which could make it easier to greenlight energy projects.
Overall, this seems like a big win for energy abundance if it’s passed, and further proof that compromise might not be dead.
More details and analysis from Meyer here.
(3) AlphaFold reveals the structure of the protein universe
DeepMind Research Blog
AlphaFold has launched biology into an era of structural abundance, unlocking scientific exploration at digital speed. The AlphaFold DB serves as a ‘google search’ for protein structures, providing researchers with instant access to predicted models of the proteins they're studying, enabling them to focus their effort and expedite experimental work. From fighting disease to developing vaccines, AlphaFold has already enabled incredible advances on some of our biggest global challenges.
Last year, AI lab DeepMind announced that its AlphaFold model has cracked one of the trickiest problems in biology: protein folding. Yesterday, DeepMind dropped an update: that it had “predicted structures for nearly all catalogued proteins known to science, which will expand the AlphaFold DB by over 200x - from nearly 1 million structures to over 200 million structures - with the potential to dramatically increase our understanding of biology.”
They open sourced the database, giving scientists and researchers free access: find the full set at GitHub here. No excuses: get out there and cure a disease this weekend.
For more, here’s a New Scientist thread on the implications.
(4) FIRST 100,000 KG REMOVED FROM THE GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH
Boyan Slat, Founder & CEO of The Ocean Cleanup
Submission credit: Sam McAllister
Since deployment in August 2021, System 002 (or “Jenny”) has now collected 101,353 kg of plastic over 45 extractions, sweeping an area of ocean of over 3000km2 – comparable to the size of Luxembourg or Rhode Island.
The Ocean Cleanup has removed over 100,000kg of plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
There’s a ways to go: the GPGP consists of 100 million kg of garbage, much of it in the form of small microplastics, but the company said that its System 03, which it’s rolling out shortly, may be able to collect garbage at a 10x higher rate.
(5) The Big Business of Burying Carbon
Jeffrey Ball for WIRED
The idea is that major emitters will hoover up their own carbon waste, then pay to have it compressed into liquid and injected back down, safely and permanently, into the same sorts of rocks it came from—carbon capture and sequestration on a scale unprecedented around the globe, large enough to put a real dent in climate change.
This one is a great example of the academia-government-business partnership of the kind Rahul described in Making Moonshots.
Academia: Tip Meckel at the University of Texas’ Bureau of Economic Geology spent nearly 15 years mapping the Gulf region’s underground rock to prove that it was a good place for carbon capture and sequestration, then “published an atlas of the Gulf Miocene layer, 74 pages of intricate maps and tiny print.”
Government: The next year, the US Government introduced a “new subsidy, modeled broadly on ones for renewable energy, [that] gave developers a credit topping out at $50 for every ton of waste carbon dioxide they captured and geologically stored.”
Business: That set off a race, including oil & gas companies and startups, to “profit from mitigating the damage those hydrocarbons have wrought.” A startup, Carbonvert, won the bid for the Texas General Land Office’s first injection rights. Now, they’re racing to “sign up enough polluters to make the project economically viable.”
It’s still early days, and Carbonvert and others still need to prove they can capture and sequester carbon profitably at $50 per ton, but it’s a step in the right direction towards something that climate scientists agree will be a big part of slowing climate change.
Bonus #1: Idea Machines by Nadia Asparouhova
If philanthropy is pluralistic – and, like any idea marketplace, that is one of its virtues – then there is no single school of thought that can “solve” complex social questions, because everyone has a different vision for the world. If you’re pro-pluralism in startups, you should also be pro-pluralism in philanthropy.
Nadia’s essay introduces the concept of an Idea Machine: “a network of operators, thinkers, and funders, centered around an ideology, that’s designed to turn ideas into outcomes.” It’s an early attempt at a playbook for forming and scaling Idea Machines to generate the kind of outcomes we write about here every Friday.
Examples include Effective Altruism, Schmidt Futures, Bentoism, Public Goods Funding, Progress Studies, It’s Time to Build, and SBF’s Future Fund.
Bonus #2: Into the Dataverse by Mike Sena at Ceramic Networks
Our vision of the Metaverse will run on the Dataverse: a composable, web-scale data ecosystem—owned by everyone and no one. Developers will build interchangeable interfaces and online experiences that directly interact with the Dataverse and the composable data that lives there. The Dataverse will play arguably the most important role within the Metaverse: a shared, high-performance, always-available graph of all data created and used by all applications.
Ceramic (from Not Boring Capital portfolio company 3Box Labs) “is a decentralized data network that brings unlimited data composability to Web3 applications.” Their blog post on the Dataverse this week is one of the most clearly-written and compelling visions of the web3 future that I’m excited about. Instead of financialization, this vision is about composability and interoperability, and about a billion connected apps created by anyone and everyone.
Thanks to Dan for editing, and to all of you who submitted optimistic content!
Humans are pulling off some pretty incredible things every week. Whenever you find examples, share them here and we’ll feature some in the newsletter.
Have a great weekend, and see you on Monday!
I stopped reading the news seven years ago when I left Apple to become an entrepreneur, so as to better focus on what I could fix about the world. THIS is the kind of news I want to pay attention to. Thanks for doing this!
- CHIPS is good
- IRA is good but we need housing
Each Congress needs to pass equivalent bills like this every 2 years. That is the goal