A Few Things: A Great Question, Power & Prediction, Unconventional Guide To Happiness, The META Trends, News You Missed, Altman on Fridman, How To Use AI To Do Practical Stuff, Short History of AI....
March 31, 2023
I am sharing this weekly email with you because I count you in the group of people I learn from and enjoy being around. Thank you.
You can check out last week’s edition here: The Rot in American Banks, Britain's Decade of Early Deaths, The Tao of Charlie Munger, Designing Your Life, Of Boys and Men, The Economic Impact of AI...
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Quotes I Am Thinking About:
“Curiosity is antifragile, like an addiction, and is magnified by attempts to satisfy it—books have a secret mission and ability to multiply, as everyone who has wall-to-wall bookshelves knows well.”
- Nassim Taleb
“People who live far below their means enjoy a freedom that people busy upgrading their lifestyles can’t fathom."
- Naval Ravikant
“A very important principle in investing is you don’t have to make it back the way you lost it. And in fact, it’s usually a mistake to try and make it back the way that you lost it.”
- Warren Buffett
“The struggle alone pleases us, not the victory.”
- Blaise Pascal
A. A Few Things Worth Checking Out:
1. A great question: What is ignored by the media but will be studied by historians?
2. This podcast was so good that I ordered the book. Invest Like the Best Podcast spoke with Avi Goldfarb on The Economic Impact of AI.
Avi is a Professor at the University of Toronto and the co-author of Power and Prediction: The Disruptive Economics of Artificial Intelligence (2022) and Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence (2018).
The 3 big ideas:
AI is about automating decision making. As humans, the history of the 20th century is that as the price of data and mathematics dropped we put mathematics and data into everything. More and more things in our life now involve data. The long term goal with AI is having prediction engines embedded everywhere.
All general purpose technologies are initially applied as a point solution, then application specific, then system wide solutions. The entrepreneurs we remember are the ones that focused on a system wide solution. Think Ford, Frick, Rockefeller in Industrial Age. To date, we have only been applying AI as a point or application solution, we have not been built entirely new integrated AI systems embedded into society.
Current society is still very rules based. This is necessary because there are many variables and unknowables, as humans we simplify this be using rules. By inserting AI in more places we can make decision making the focus rather than rules. Society can moves to a decision & probability focused rather than rules focused. With data and AI everything can be personalised.
3. Many of you have read Mark Manson’s NYT Bestselling book: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. It’s definitely one I think about every few months.
He had a great recent post: An Unconventional Guide to Happiness.
4. Matt Klein is a deep thinker, whose curiosity runs deep and wide. He works as cultural theorist and strategist to decode the zeitgeist. In addition to his writing and research for ZINE, he is currently the Head of Global Foresight at Reddit.
Matt’s beautiful work helps us stay close to the trends and zeitgeists of our time, and away from the chaos.
Within his recent report, he conducts a meta-analysis of +50 global forecasts and their +500 reported social shifts. He strives to decipher the so-called "trending trends" for 2023 and beyond according to leading think tanks, trend-spotting organisations, and more.
Read 50+ 2023 global reports and parsed 550+ trends in Excel
ID’d 16 META Trends (i.e. the largest themes, trending trends)
Designated ~10x words/phrases to rep each of the 16 META Trends
Applied The Overlooked Framework to interrogate each META Trend
Input META Trend write-ups into DALL·E for impressionist visuals
The entire report is worth a review, the 5 trends that stood out to me:
One of Us 🔗
Alone and over the mainstream, niche and tight communities flourish
Keywords: community, we, fix, long tail, P2P, collectivism, margins
Drivers: desires for progress, anti-institution, a friend recession
What If: Scaled sense of belonging heals our mental health crisis?
BUT What If: Communities only further cement in-group mentalities?
To Play: Pivot: “Community Management,” to “Community Participant”
Human Needs: camaraderie, intimacy, social contact
+ Related Dive: The Future Distributed Trust
AI Plural Perception 🤖
Creativity and humanism are put into question as AI raises and lowers bars
Keywords: Open-AI, GPT4, deep fake, DALL·E, Midjourney, generative
Drivers: innovation, curiosity, accessibility, laziness, low costs
What If: We get a renaissance, surpassing old techniques and ideas?
BUT What If: We mindlessly go too fast, or become overly reliant?
Human Needs: power, evolution, novelty
To Play: Use AI to give us q’s not a’s, double down on human magic
Psychic Healing 🍄
Seeking answers and control, we look to our ancestors’ resolutions
Keywords: grief, trauma, astro, spirit, moon, nature, manifest
Drivers: decline in institutions, bottomless-wellness, permacrisis
What If: De-stigmatized “fringe” practices offer benefit?
BUT What If: The real, self-reflective work never gets done?
To Play: Offer stabilization, don’t push McMindfulness, slow down
Human Needs: spirituality, competence, assistance
Pigs & Piggy Banks 🐷
Prophesied economic hardship ushers in a mood frugality and austerity
Keywords: DIY, pre-own, rent, repair, sub, co-live, open salary
Drivers: interest rates, recession, inflate, hustle survival, debt
What If: Financial literacy and savings were timeless practices?
AND What If: “Eat the rich” satire drives stagnation, pacifying us?
To Play: Prevent a creator crash and realize degrowth is required
Human Needs: independence, ownership, status
Pink & Grey, No Blue 💄
At tension, both gender fluidity and feminism flourish, while men remain lost
Keywords: agender, ID, sex, Roe, subvert, chad, barbie, sigma, trad
Drivers: cultural evolution / comfort, Gen Z, brand plays, toxicity
What If: We killed store sections and used character as a label?
BUT What If: Some men stay aimless, further radicalized?
To Play: Elevate sound male figures, disrupt tropes, and be nice
Human Needs: individuality, expression, acceptance
Thank you Tom White for flagging this.
5. Have we discovered the holy grail of building muscle without exercising? Peter Attia had a discussion on his blog asking: Can a new drug mimic the effects of exercise on bone and muscle? discussing the new drug: locamidazole (LAMZ).
Physical exercise is one of the best ways to maintain overall health with age. In some clinical cases where exercise is not feasible, such as recovering from a hip fracture, drug therapy such as LAMZ may prove to be a viable way to slow the onset of frailty resulting from inactivity or reduced movement. But more needs to be understood about the effects of LAMZ before it is translated to human trials, including its efficacy in elderly populations. For those who are able, the best way to continue to avoid sarcopenia and osteoporosis is through exercise – not a flashy exercise-mimicking drug.
Made me think of my friends at EXI - Exercise Intelligence. Their mission is: to transform people’s health and lives by enabling personalised physical activity to be prescribed as quickly, effectively and confidently as medication is today.
Disclaimer: I am investor in the business.
B. Charts and News You Might Have Missed:
1. American passports are in very high demand right now, according to the Department of State, with the record 22 million passports issued in 2022 already on pace to be broken. Right now, the State Department gets ~500k requests for a new passport every week, up 30 to 40% over the rate last year.
2. Renewable energy sources in the US generated more electricity than coal or nuclear last year, government data showed. Of the 4,000,000 megawatt-hours of electricity produced, 20% came from coal, 19% from nuclear, and 21% from renewables.
Natural gas still dominates, but the power coming from renewable sources has roughly doubled since 2010. The increase is driven by solar and wind power: Solar capacity jumped by 12% last year, and wind by 6%. Texas accounted for a quarter of total US wind-power generation, while California led the way in solar with the same figure.
3. Two bits on phones:
4G internet is set to arrive on the moon later this year. Nokia aims to launch a 4G mobile network on the moon later this year via a SpaceX rocket. The network includes a base station stored on a Nova-C lunar lander and a solar-powered rover.
’Dumb phones’ are on the rise in the US as Gen Z looks to limit screen time. Companies like HMD Global, the maker of Nokia phones, continue to sell millions of mobile devices similar to those used in the early 2000s. This includes what’s known as “feature phones,” traditional flip or slide phones that have additional features like GPS or a hotspot.
4. The Oil bulls have given up.
5. This is depressing.
C. The Technology Section:
1. Super episode with Sam Altman on the Lex Fridman show.
They discussed GPT-4 16:02, AI safety 43:43, Neural network size 47:36, AGI 1:09:05, Truth and misinformation 2:01:09, Anthropomorphism 2:14:03 and Future applications 2:17:54.
Definitely worth a listen from a company at the forefront of AI today.
2. Great short piece by Ethan Mollick titled Acceleration, discussing the pace of change from AI.
Even if AI technology did not advance past today, it would be enough for transformation. GPT-4 is more than capable of automating, or assisting with, vast amounts of highly-skilled work without any additional upgrades or improvements. Programmers, analysts, marketing writers, and many other jobs will find huge benefits to working with AI, and huge risks if they do not learn to use these tools. We will need to rethink testing and certification, with AI already able to pass many of our most-challenging tests. Education will need to evolve. A lot is going to change, and these tools are still improving.
Things are not slowing down. If we had hoped for a breather to absorb all of this new technology, it isn’t going to happen. Too many organisations are incentivised to release AI products to imagine anything slowing down. Likely, between the time I send this email and you read it, Microsoft will have added image generation capabilities to Bing, continuing the blistering pace of AI development. And, while there may be limits to the AI technologies like Large Language Models, we haven’t reached them yet. And there there is this extraordinary new paper by Microsoft researchers, full of examples, in which they conclude, rather mind-blowingly, that GPT-4 “could reasonably be viewed as an early (yet still incomplete) version of an artificial general intelligence (AGI) system.” I don’t think anyone knows what the next few years of technology will look like.
I have only come to believe more fervently that the world is about to change in complex ways, both good and bad. And I think the only way to prepare for the future is to get as comfortable as possible with the AIs available today. Everyone should practice using them for work and personal tasks, so that you can understand their uses and limits. Things are only going to accelerate further from here.
3. Super practical piece by Ethan Mollick: How to use AI to do practical stuff: A new guide.
We shouldn’t just be talking and reading about this stuff, but actually using and understanding it. This piece covers how you can use AI to: write stuff, make images, come up with ideas, make videos, coding and learn stuff.
4. A thesis building around LLMs (Large Language Models) and the current architecture of the internet is that LLMs are the real Web3 or maybe more catchy LLMs are Jarvis (from Iron Man).
Specifically, OpenAI’s recent announcement of “plugins” to connect chatbots with underlying services like Wolfram Alpha, Kayak, or Shopify makes LLMs more powerful. For most of us, these plugins or Apps will allow ChatGPT to stop being a place where we go to play around with a tool, and instead become a software layer through which we better harness information we already need to work with.
The core reason is because the plugins provide a conversational interface to trusted information, mitigating weaknesses inherent in LLMs.
Interfaces driven by LLMs could define the future of the web, and to take the Web3 analogy further:
Organisations and countries may prefer to maintain control and privacy over their data by using their own localised or on-premise systems.
The consumer may prefer privacy-safe, on-device LLMs to avoid data harvesting and privacy fears associated with online services like Facebook or Google.
That’s the gist of the argument in these two pieces: Rex Woodbury: How AI is Giving us Superpowers and Stratechery piece: ChatGPT Gets a Computer.
5. The Generalist had a report titled: What to Watch in AI: Ten AI companies that investors and founders are keeping a close eye on.
6. Deep and well written Short History of Artificial Intelligence.
The other big AI news this week was the letter by Elon Musk and others urging for a pause on “giant AI experiments”. Eliezer Yudkowsky has been talking about the risks from AI/AGI for many years, and Niall Ferguson discussed Eliezer’s piece in Time Magazine.
8. The kids and I were playing with Midjourney this week. They describe themselves as an independent research lab exploring new mediums of thought and expanding the imaginative powers of the human species.
This was one of their first prompts: A woman dancing near the ocean in the rain 4k.
This is a completely new image made by Midjourney’s AI in seconds. You have to look at the hands to notice that the AI is still figuring out hands and fingers.
And this is what’s possible with more advanced prompts: Catholic Pope Francis wearing Balenciaga puffy jacket in drill rap music video, throwing up gang signs with hands, taken using a Canon EOS R camera with a 50mm f/1.8 lens, f/2.2 aperture, shutter speed 1/200s, ISO 100 and natural light, Full Body, Hyper Realistic Photography, Cinematic, Cinema, Hyperdetail, UHD, Color Correction, hdr, color grading, hyper realistic CG animation --ar 4:5 --upbeta --q 2 --v 5
And again, you have to look at the fingers to notice that it’s an AI generated image.
Or this one: 1960s street style photo of a crowd of young women standing on a sailboat, wearing dior dresses made of silk, pearl necklaces, sunset over the ocean, shot on Agfa Vista 200, 4k --ar 16:9
Believe it or not, that “♡ Like” button is a big deal – it serves as a proxy to new visitors of this publication’s value. If you enjoy this article, don’t be shy.