Discover more from A Few Things....
A Few Things: Britain AI Super Power?, India's Foreign Policy, What Do Indian Millennials Want?, Epstein's Money Men, Uranium Crash Course, Your Personal AI, AI Basics For Investors....
June 22, 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.
You can check out last week’s edition here: Becoming a Magician, The Truth About UFOs, Hack Your Brain, Carbon Almanac, Foundation, Power & Progress, The Tech Section, News You Missed....
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 :)
Quotes I Am Thinking About:
“It's not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
- Bruce Lee
"Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments.”
- Rose Kennedy
“We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.”
A. A Few Things Worth Checking Out:
1. The Economist had a good piece titled- How Britain can become an AI superpower: Rishi Sunak’s enthusiasm is welcome. But his plans for Britain fall short.
Key bits (emphasis mine):
The country does have some advantages. It is home to several important AI companies, mostly in London—in particular, Google DeepMind. It has excellent universities, and welcomes the highly skilled foreign workers that ai companies need. The state generates troves of data; no other country has such an array of health records under a single entity, the National Health Service (NHS). And Brexit creates a chance to adopt an appealing regulatory position that could be a model for medium-sized countries around the world as they also rush to join the AI party.
But there are problems aplenty, too. The most obvious is that Britain is a smallish place. America’s dominance in tech exerts a steady pull on capital, people and ideas, and American firms duly dominate in AI. The way Brexit was done means that Britain has lost access to the European Union’s single market. Although Oracle has a cluster of the advanced graphics processing units (gpus) needed to train large models, none of the cloud-computing giants has yet chosen Britain as the base for what techies call the “compute”.
For Britain to prosper in AI, therefore, much will have to change. It needs to cram more people who know one end of a GPU from the other into positions of influence in government. Mr Sunak may loudly extol the promise of BritGPT, but his government should include more engineers who understand the mix of data and compute from which AI is built.
Once it has the expertise, the government must deal with three broad concerns. The first is about those public datasets. They are in no fit state for AI developers to exploit—the data are unrefined ore, not sparkling treasure. Only the state has the authority to get these datasets cleaned up, and to start thinking of what new ones could be built. A stock of clean, regularly updated datasets that are technically and legally easy for algorithm-makers to use would draw in engineers who want to build new AI systems. An AI-ready NHS would be the jewel in Britain’s crown.
Second, Britain should move fast to gain an edge in regulation. The goal should be a pragmatic set of rules keeping AI safe that sits somewhere between America’s Wild West permissiveness and what is likely to be a regulatory warren in the EU. Mr Sunak announced at a White House meeting with President Joe Biden this month that he will host a global summit on ai regulation this autumn. Good. That will be the place and time to set out Britain’s stall as having rules for AI that are sufficiently flexible to work for different industries.
The last and thorniest concern is how to get AI developers the compute they need to train and run large models. Advanced gpus made by Nvidia—for now, the only chips worth using—are suffering a global supply crunch. The government could help by telling British companies and its own departments to be much readier than now to send their data abroad to AI developers in other, friendly countries. For most datasets, worries about privacy and security are overdone.
One focus should be to ensure a reliable supply of clean, affordable power. To train models needs mind-boggling quantities of electricity. If Britain is without cheap supplies of power, it will struggle to persuade anyone to set up big GPU centres there. The queue to obtain a connection to Britain’s grid is holding back potential investors across the economy.
Other steps could include using public money to fund a “moonshot” project, such as developing open-source software, to help chipmakers break the near-monopoly that Nvidia holds on the AI market. Nvidia’s edge comes from clever software which makes training models on its GPUs a breeze. Rival chipmakers in America and Britain have no equivalent and are all but locked out of the AI market. With better software their chips could compete with Nvidia’s and ease the supply crunch that dogs AI developers the world over. That’s a worthy ambition for a country seeking global AI greatness.
2. The Economist had a good piece on India’s Foreign Policy titled: India’s foreign minister on ties with America, China and Russia.
Key bits (emphasis mine):
In a recent interview with this paper, Henry Kissinger, a former American secretary of state, gave a troubling assessment of a world in which old powers are fading, new ones are rising and superpower conflict threatens. Yet he offered, alongside few other hopeful notes, this accolade: “I have very high regard for the way the Indians conduct their foreign policy now, because it shows balance.” Mr Kissinger reserved particular praise for India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar—calling him “the practising political leader that is quite close to my views”. To discuss the geopolitical oddity that India’s rising power represents, Mr Jaishankar sat down with The Economist for a rare, hour-long interview in his airy, sandstone office in Delhi.
Formerly India’s top diplomat (and ambassador to both Washington and Beijing), Mr Jaishankar is one of the brains behind India’s balancing act. Besides the familiar diffidence about alliances, he espouses above all a commitment to multipolarity. Unlike many in Washington, India does not see the world in terms of a cold-war-style duality, pitting American-led countries against those hewing to China. It sees an emerging dance of big powers—chiefly America, China, Russia and itself—in which it will engage multiple partners, albeit to different degrees. “We would like to have multiple choices. And obviously try to make the best of it,” says Mr Jaishankar, a dapper 68-year-old. “Every country would like to do that. Some may be constrained by other obligations, some may not.”
That transactional view (in a recent book, Mr Jaishankar describes a “multipolar world with frenemies”) does not preclude long-term partnerships. On the contrary, the “transformation of the India-US relationship”, he says, is “the big change in my professional life”. He attributes much of this to Mr Modi, crediting the prime minister with having jettisoned the “ideological hesitations”—by which he means anti-Americanism—of India’s former left-leaning elite. Now, he says, the relationship is “getting more consequential by the day… moving forward very, very rapidly”. He believes it will be further boosted by two big economic changes: diversification of supply chains away from China and increased digitisation. Both processes, which he describes as a “new globalisation”, in theory depend on the sort of mutual trust India and America are building.
He believes Russia is being economically reoriented towards Asia. “What I suspect this whole Ukraine issue is going to mean is that Russia, a country which was actually truly Eurasian, is probably today discovering or is anticipating that a large part of its relationship with the West will no longer work.” Meanwhile, India’s growth is fuelling its hunger for Russian resources. “It’s common sense that the two trends intersect.”
The emergence of new great powers—for now China and arguably India; in future perhaps Brazil, Indonesia and Nigeria—is making geopolitics more complicated and prone to the sorts of contradictions and trade-offs that Indian foreign policy embraces. India is not only maintaining its lucrative relationship with Russia as a hedge against the West. It also considers its partnership with Russia a means to limit Russian support for its two major adversaries, Pakistan and China.
Perhaps that is the best the West can hope for. Emerging powers such as India, with huge economic needs and complicated domestic politics, will not line up behind America, or for that matter China, in the old cold-war fashion. Whether the new geopolitical reality they represent will be stable is another question.
Even so, the doubt about what sort of partnership America and its allies should expect of India, a rising power that rejects alliances and juggles competing priorities, is a significant one. “You have an India which is looking at multiple opportunities across multiple geographies, often polities which have contradictory interests. And it is trying to advance on all fronts,” says Mr Jaishankar. It is a good appraisal of India’s challenging new role in the world. It also underlines the uncertainties, and threat to stability, that Mr Kissinger warned of in an increasingly multipolar world.
3. If you are looking to get smarter on India, a great book I just finished is “What Millennials Want: Decoding the World’s Largest Generation” by Vivan Marwaha.
India is one of the youngest countries in the world. Two-thirds of Indias’s population is between twenty and thirty-five. This is the largest generation of people in the world. That means that the choices and trajectory of this generation have pivotal consequences on local, regional and global politics.
What makes them tick? Here are some stats that surprised me…..As of 2021, more than 84% reported having an arranged marriage. 65% listed a government job as their top priority. Approximately 1.3 million Indians become of working age ever month. One estimate that today there are over 1000 million people in the 20-35 age group in India with no good jobs.
Vivan Marwaha spoke to 900 millennials, educators, business leaders and policy makers across thirteen Indian states to understand the Indian millennial and their attitudes towards marriage employment, religion and politics.
You can get a good flavour of the book in this interview he did.
4. I’ve been binge listening to the podcast series on Epstein’s Money Men by Tortoise Media. It’s outrageous.
Epstein’s victims can’t take him to court – so they’re going after the banks that handled his money. Last week, JP Morgan settled a lawsuit filed against the bank by victims of Jeffrey Epstein for around $290 million.
There are three episodes of their 'Epstein's Moneymen' mini-series, the 1st focuses on Jes Staley, the 2nd on the role of Deutsche Bank, the 3rd on Leon Black.
5. My favourite market strategist Marko Papic at ClockTower Group, had a great piece titled: The Sullivan Doctrine: Machiavellian America Rises. Here’s the 1st page:
6. Meb Faber spoke to Dan Niles, PM of the Sartori Fund about Big Tech Stocks and the AI Revolution. He is a long short guy, mainly tech focused, and has been managing money for nearly 20 years, before which he was an engineer and a research analyst.
His views are interesting, talking of how he sees recession ahead of us and what it means for the likes of Google and Apple in particular.
7. If you have been hearing about Nuclear Energy and the investment opportunity in Uranium but weren’t sure where to begin, this Value Hive podcast titled: The Ultimate Uranium Crash Course is a good place to begin.
They spoke to Mike Alkin, who runs Sachem Cove Capital, a private investment fund and was previously at Knott Partners. Before Knott, he worked at Walker Smith Capital, Zweig-DiMenna and Windsor Partners.
8. If you keep hearing about the Wagner Group but aren’t sure if it’s the new production of The Ring Cycle, then check out the new documentary from the Wall Street Journal into one of the most menacing parties involved in the Russian invasion of Ukraine: Wagner Group.
What began as a small mercenary group has grown into a private Russian army responsible for atrocities on multiple continents. The documentary traces Wagner's activities back to Syria and Africa where it has seized and exploited resources and murdered civilians at will. It also investigates the link between Wagner's sprawling network of front companies and the Kremlin, with interviews with current and ex-Wagner fighters and government sources.
As expert Candace Rondeaux says in the documentary: "Every part of what the Wagner group does is directed by the state, for the state, to the profit of the state." It is, essentially, a brutal shadow force serving Vladimir Putin.
B. The Technology Section:
1. The amazing Mustafa Suleyman, who co-founded and served as former head of applied AI at DeepMind and then co-founded Inflection, was on the Reid Hoffman (he’s a co-founder of Inflection) Possible podcast.
Mustafa discusses AI in the context of other technological advancements throughout history and shares the philosophies that guide his work and life. He also talks about Inflection, and the various ways personal AI can enhance our day-to-day lives. Pi, an AI developed by Inflection, also joins the conversation.
Put it in your whats app contact by clicking here. I use it daily, its totally different to ChatGPT.
2. Attended a briefing by Bobby Yerramilli-Rao, Chief Strategy Officer at Microsoft, thanks to Pi Capital.
Here are some key bits:
The combination of three seminal technologies in the next 20 years: AI, fusion and quantum could deliver unlimited capacity to innovate. Bobby hypothesised that we could be on the cusp of a golden age for the human race with increases in productivity driven by AI and new jobs created.
AI models fall into 3 categories: 1) the most advance models which will be developed by companies with access to huge compute power and using essentially all data that is publicly and ethically available, adjusted to ensure lack of biases 2) models trained on much smaller, often proprietary data sets for more specific tasks (e.g. to improve coding) and 3) hybrid models which use a mix of 1 & 2 in order to arrive at an outcome the most energy efficient way. Applications will need to differentiate by using approach (3) and drawing on specific and differentiated datasets.
You can get a good flavour of his views from this super podcast Bobby did a few weeks back titled: How To Capture The AI Moment. He also discussed about the impact of these models on education, healthcare. The key to using them will be augmentation of current workflow, rather than creating something new.
3. Understanding AI: LLM Basics for Investors, is a good read.
It starts by defining what is a neural network, then discusses training, inference, prompts, and then where data & compute fit.
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 enjoyed this, don’t be shy.
Engineer Wei Dai on reinventing yourself:
"Once you achieve high status, a part of your mind makes you lose interest in the thing that you achieved high status with in the first place. You might feel obligated to maintain an appearance of interest, and defend your position from time to time, but you no longer feel a burning need to know the truth.
One solution that might work (and I think has worked for me, although I didn't consciously choose it) is to periodically start over. Once you've achieved recognition in some area, and no longer have as much interest in it as you used to, go into a different community focused on a different topic, and start over from a low-status (or at least not very high status) position."