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🤖 Alexa’s new best friend

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Someone in Indiana converted a high school gym into a house, and it just sold for $300k. The kitchen is fully equipped with a refrigerator, dishwasher, and free throw line.

In today’s email:

  • Out of whack: The work-life balance.
  • Chart: Amazon’s smart house.
  • Climate bill: There’s good news and bad news.
  • Around the web: An epic resignation, the “arrival fallacy,” a baffling puzzle, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s 10-minute podcast to hear about the newest addition to Amazon’s robo-fleet, data showing America’s peculiar work-life balance, Netflix’s gaming struggles, and more.

The big idea
working around the clock

The work-life balance is out of whack

Something odd is happening in the corporate world.

Work-from-home is widespread and unlimited vacation policies abound. The “work-life balance” should be more balanced than ever. But is it?

Let’s look at vacations

Fifty-seven percent of Americans vacationed in the past year, the highest rate since 2009, per data from Allianz Partners USA. But look deeper, and here’s what you’ll find:

  • 60% of US professionals are working more on vacations, according to consulting firm Korn Ferry.
  • 63% are taking shorter-than-usual vacations.
  • 37% are logging on multiple times per day during vacations, up from 19% in 2021.

No better way to unwind than Microsoft Teams at the beach.

What about other trends?

In 2021, Microsoft Teams saw a 42% rise in chats per person after normal work hours.

  • Flexibility is great; people are saving nearly six hours weekly by commuting less. But they’re also spending half of that saved time… doing more work.

And let’s not forget — in the US, 23% of private-sector workers don’t even get paid vacation. It’s hard to relax if it means no dinner.

One practice that’s seen success…

… is the company-wide, weeklong recess. Results from PwC’s 60k-employee trial, for instance, were positive. Surprising!

Then you’ve got the four-day workweek, which has proven effective in Iceland’s multiyear trials and is undergoing promising tests in the US, Canada, and the UK with 7.3k+ workers across 130 companies.

One thing’s for certain: It’s not unreasonable to think people could soon be working four-day workweeks from home with an unlimited vacation policy. Try explaining that to a grandparent born in 1935.

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New lane: Lyft created a media division in an attempt to generate revenue from in-vehicle ads. Uber kicked off its own advertising efforts in 2019 through the UberEats app.

Build what? Marc Andreessen, VC and author of a popular 2020 essay titled “It’s Time to Build,” reportedly submitted a public comment against a proposal to develop multifamily units in his hometown of Atherton, CA.

Yikes: SoftBank’s Vision Fund posted a $23B quarterly loss for Q2 as tech stocks continued to plummet. Somehow, it’s only the second-largest quarterly loss in the fund’s history.

Objection: A federal judge ruled that AI systems cannot patent inventions because they are not humans. The verdict went against Stephen Thaler, a computer scientist looking to patent the creations of his AI software tools.

Ouch: A new report from app analytics company Apptopia found that less than 1% of Netflix’s 221m members play the company’s mobile games.

Scooped: Axios, the digital media startup known for its brevity, agreed to be purchased by Cox Enterprises in a ~$525m deal.

Meme pop: Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond stock surged ~40% after the company was mentioned on Reddit’s WallStreetBets message board.

Amazon's robot fleet

Singdhi Sokpo

A timeline of Amazon’s home robot takeover

In 1999, Disney Channel released Smart House, a movie about a family whose house is controlled by a virtual assistant named PAT.

It appears Amazon founder Jeff Bezos saw this film.

The former CEO and his protege, Andy Jassy, have spent the last decade buying and building their way toward the smart home of the future:

  • 2013 — Acquired Ivona Software, a voice recognition startup
  • 2014 — Launched the Echo smart speaker powered by Alexa, a voice assistant largely based on Ivona Software
  • 2017 — Acquired Blink, a smart security camera startup
  • 2018 — Acquired Ring, the smart doorbell startup
  • 2021 — Launched Astro, a household robot that, among other things, can follow a person from room to room
  • 2022 — Announced it will acquire iRobot, maker of the Roomba smart vacuum

Amazon has taken heat for data collection, and the prospect of adding Roomba, which collects troves of data to map users’ homes, is only adding to the scrutiny.

In Smart House, PAT goes rogue and turns on her human owners. At least Alexa hasn’t done that… yet.

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I’m Just a Bill
EV charger

Could the climate bill help you nab an EV?

Electric vehicles can save drivers money in the long run, but adoption is hindered by high costs (~$66k on average in the US) and short supply.

A new climate bill, passed by the Senate and expected to clear the House this week, could helpor make things harder, Axios reports.

How it works

The bill includes $370B+ in climate and energy-focused spending and tax incentives. Some relevant provisions for EV buyers and producers include:

  • $7.5k in tax rebates when buying US-made EVs (up to $4k for used EVs)
  • $2B in grants to revamp auto manufacturing facilities for clean vehicle production
  • $20B in loans to build manufacturing facilities for clean tech

But getting that tax rebate…

… could be tough. To meet eligibility, a vehicle’s battery must have:

  • ~40% of its components made in North America or by a US trade partner by 2024
  • 100% of its components made in North America by 2029

This is a problem, because the EV battery supply chain in the US is underdeveloped. Currently, only ~30% of EVs in the US qualify for the tax credit, and none meet the qualifications for 2029.

Some experts believe the bill would be more climate-friendly if the tax credits applied to all EVs.

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✈️ On this day: In 2010, years before the Great Resignation, a JetBlue flight attendant quit by sliding down the plane’s escape slide.

😕 That’s interesting: Unpacking the seemingly impossible 100 Prisoners riddle.

🧠 How to: Sometimes the joy you feel after achieving a goal is short-lived. That’s called the arrival fallacy. Here’s how to avoid it.

🎵 Cure boredom: This simple online music-maker lets you create tunes with strangers.

🎾 Aww: And now, fetch with a robot.

work emails on vacation meme

Worst feeling. (Source: imgflip.com)

How did you like today’s email?
Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst, Mia Sullivan.
Editing by: Jennifer “Free throw dinner time!” Wang.

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