🔥 AI & Go's relevance; Twitter's future; peak hipster; open-source futures; Windows XP++ #47

🔥 AI & Go's relevance; Twitter's future; peak hipster; open-source futures; Windows XP++ #47
The Exponential View

Does it matter that DeepMind’s AlphaGo can beat a human? Do robots mean low-interest rates? Have we reached peak hipster? Can Twitter stay relevant? Does the Dunbar number hold in social networks? So many interesting questions. Some answers.

Please recommend EV to your social network: Twitter (fish) | Facebook (chicken)

Dept of the near future

💡 Will robots herald an era of permanently low inflation and low-interest rates? SHORT, INSIGHTFUL

🔥 Open-source has become the dominant software methodology. How will its next chapter unfold? EXCELLENT by @nayafia

😃 The future of media is the influencer-curator. What happens to media in the age of abundance is fundamental shift.** GREAT INSIGHT**

🦄 Have we reached peak hipster? SUPERB analysis of the business & economics of the hipster. h/t @shehnaz_s

🔌 Will machines eliminate us? Q&A with Facebook’s Yoshua Bangio. A wonderful riposte to this is in this tweet. (Read the tweet a couple of times, it prompts some thinking.)

Dept of Artificial intelligence

It has been quite a week. Marvin Minsky, one of the pioneers of AI, passed away aged 88. Here are three good reads on a groundbreaking human.

* Thought-provoking Minsky quotes

* The NY Times obituary | Financial Times obituary

Also, fascinating week in the field of AI as seen through the lens of the battle between Facebook & Google. Google’s Deepmind demonstrated AlphaGo which finally bested a professional human player.

MUST READ: DeepMind’s blog post on the topic.

One of the key points is that Deepmind combined different schools of AI, neural net approaches with symbolic approaches, to make this breakthrough.

💡 Gary Marcus’ take on this announcement is EXCELLENT: “The real question is whether the technology developed there can be taken out of the game world and into the real world”

Love this AI research stream: augmenting human driving safety by predicting our likely ‘next actions’. The question is whether it will arrive before fully autonomous driving does.

Artificial intelligence is being used more heavily in hedge funds. The algorithmic battle space is hotting up.

My former colleague, Ferenc Huszar, now head of research at Magic Pony Technology, provokes: “Deep learning is easier, try something harder.” RECOMMENDED

Dept of social networks

🚑 How Facebook squashed Twitter. Ben Thompson’s analysis is really excellent and to the point. For non-specialists, the Twitter is struggling to hold on to its widespread relevance and seems to be in an unrecoverable position compared to Facebook in terms of market share. (See this report: Twitter’s US users fall by a third over two years.)

Twitter has $3bn enough to finance losses for a long time. The company isn’t going to disappear anywhere soon. The question is whether Twitter can ever meet Wall Street’s expectations and not whether Twitter is a useful product or project for a sub-set of people. (See Anthony De Rosa elide on this topic.)

My take is that the core premise of Twitter is exceptionally useful to a small number of people. People who are interested in topics, subjects and areas of expertise so much so that they are willing to go out and find that information rather than waiting for mainstream media filters like newspapers and Edgerank to get it to them. Those people are probably like Exponential View readers, small in number, but for whom Twitter is valuable.

Apple provides a cursory precedent for Twitter. Back in 2002 it faced a declining market share and a cash pile in excess of $4bn. However, Steve Jobs approach to solving Apple’s problems have been different to those at Twitter. Some may remember that Jobs took a saw to Apple’s product lines, axing multiple confusing and overlapping desktop and laptop ranges; eliminating the profitable printer unit and weird appendages (like online services and their software-based modem.) A good review of how Jobs simplified Apple is here.

This relentless focus on a few things allowed Apple to stabilise and only five later it was a hugely more complex business with an iPod unit, a phone unit and a media distribution business.

Apple, of course, has a more robust business model than twitter. It sold something which had a margin on it, rather than trading on the less tangible quality, user attention. However it strikes me that Twitter’s recent moves have been to complicate and bloat the product (Moments, anyone?) and continue to be complicated by the fact that revenue-driving activities (brand partnerships) run head-on to the process of figuring out exactly how to give the people who keep Twitter relevant what they need.

Is it possible to laser in on subject-oriented geeks & info-junkies and keep Wall Street happy in the short-term? Almost certainly not. But hard choices….

If Jack’s listening, I’d encourage him to look deep into the core of Twitter’s most loyal users and build out from them. It could maintain the firms relevance which is the foothold from which you can build a long-term success. (Below Nova Spivack has a slightly different take.)

Back in 2002, I commented on Apple: “Relevance isn’t something that appears on a balance sheet… Relevant firms rarely die. Far from it, they flourish.”


Social media is a trap. Short insightful interview with 90-year-old sociologist, Zygmunt Bauman.

The Dunbar number seems to hold even for heavily connected users of social networks: “as originally proposed by the social brain hypothesis, there is a cognitive constraint on the size of social networks that even the communication advantages of online media are unable to overcome”

Short morsels for dinner parties

👫 Understanding the myriad of new gender pronouns. FASCINATING

Using the brain’s electrical signals to predict what people are seeing.

🏩 Nearly 30% of AirBNB’s revenue comes from perma-shares, a trend the hotel industry calls ‘alarming’.

Startups are breathing new life into nuclear fusion. (A colleague of mine worked on a nuclear fusion project which has a 70-year long project timeline. If startups can bring a modicum of agility to this industry, it could benefits us all.)

The Tesla Model 3 will cost $35k. Great news.

Contactless payments are soaring in the UK. Cash seems poised to be relegated to second place.

Britain’s fleet of Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines run Windows XP. Still it could be worse, it could be Windows Vista)

A robot can solve the Rubik’s cube is less than 2 seconds.

Droneboarding is a thing.

What you are up to

The material soul. EV reader, Prof Anil Seth, on “ what neuroscience can – and can’t – tell us about consciousness.”

How Twitter could be 1000x more awesome by EV subscriber Nova Spivack. Nova gets into quite some product depth.

End note

Yes - very focussed on AI this week. There as just a lot going on, so it pushed out material on other topics. Will adjust in future.

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