Hi, I’m Azeem Azhar. I convene Exponential View to help us understand how our societies and political economy will change under the force of rapidly accelerating technologies.
This week, I asked members to imagine where their favourite breakthrough technology will be in five, ten, twenty plus years. Join the discussion.
🎙️ On Friday, 30 October, 1pm UK time (8am EST; 8pm HKT), I am hosting a live chat with Yale’s Nicholas Christakis whose latest book Apollo’s Arrow looks into the long-term consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ll stream live on Linkedin, YouTube and Twitter.
The near future
🧠🕹️😃 “We’re almost at the point where we have powerful enough algorithms to accelerate scientific discovery itself. And I think in the next ten years there are going to be a lot of major, perhaps Nobel-Prize level type, breakthroughs, in all sorts of domains,” says Demis Hassabis, the founder and CEO of DeepMind, in our conversation. Demis doesn’t do many interviews, so it was a huge honour to have him on the podcast. He is brilliant and fun, and this conversation is a real treat, I promise. (This would also be a superb way to get into podcasts if you aren’t already.)
💯 A new paper suggests that systemic risk extends beyond the financial sector. Firms such as Amazon and Apple are systemically important and actually quite vulnerable to shocks. (One weird result, and Americans will understand this, is that Comcast is viewed as the second-most systemically important firm in the US. Chortle.)
🍏 How Apple Innovates. Morten Hansen and Joel Podonly (head of Apple University) detail how Steve Jobs’ return to Apple led to a complete restructuring of the organisation – from separate business units into one organisation, firing all of the general managers in a single day.
🔒 Is the Internet a technology of centralisation? The recent furore over a New York Post story being censored by Twitter and conversations around data regulation in various countries provide compelling arguments for both sides of the debate.
💬 The rise of low code technology is changing how ordinary people use tech. Think Airtable and Roblox. I discussed low code with Howie Liu, Airtable’s CEO, earlier this year.
How Satya Nadella turned Microsoft around. And what comes next.
🍃 Dept of decarbonisation: 412.50ppm | 3,504 days
Each week, I’m going to remind you of the CO2 levels in the atmosphere and the number of days until we reach the 450ppm threshold.
The latest measurement (as of October 22): 412.50ppm; October 2019: 408 ppm; 25 years ago: 360 ppm; 250 years ago, est: 250 ppm. Share this reminder with your community by forwarding this email or tweeting this.
HSBC and the Queensland government have purchased the first reef credits, a financial incentive instrument that pays farmers to reduce polluted runoff into the Great Barrier Reef. (Congrats to EV reader, Neil Henderson, who pulled the deal together. A better use of his time than trashing me at tennis!)
In five years, renewables will be cheaper than existing gas according to BNEF.
Chart of the week
Can a neural network use mainstream news articles to forecast forward GDP?
The above is a forecast by a neural network of GDP growth three months ahead, using articles from The Daily Mail and GDP from the previous month. The neural net with sentiment analysis does better than benchmark, as evidenced by the lower root-mean-square error.
Chart of the week (2)
Read into it what you will. But remember, correlation is not causation!
Short morsels to appear smart while reading the news
😀 US Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Ilhan Omar use Twitch to get young people to vote. Here’s a recap of the best moments, put together by EV reader John Battelle’s team at The Recount. Biden seems to be drawing more online engagement than Trump as Election Day nears.
Turning tables: Activists are using facial recognition to identify the police.
Chinese online education startup Yuanfudao lands $1.2 billion with a $15.5 billion valuation in a booming online learning market.
🤔 Remote working is not only for white-collar jobs. Telepresence robots allow workers in manual jobs to work remotely.
An excerpt from Reeve Wiedeman’s fascinating book on WeWork.
🗳️ What happens when you run against a QAnon candidate?
Some of Facebook’s earliest critics are coming back to haunt us.
👻🤳 Halloween gets a Covid-19 update, of course.
🧱 The US is relying on the same playbook for cybersecurity issues as it did during the Cold War.
An absolutely heartwarming story of a high-school dropout’s journey from felon to lawyer. With a little help of his ex-girlfriend’s family.
Did I mention that you ought to listen to my discussion with Demis?
Have a great week,
P.S. Clocks change in the UK and most of Europe tonight. Presumably, you’ll wake up early and can enjoy this longer edition.
What you’re up to—notes from EV readers
Congrats to Jolyon Maugham for winning his case against the UK government, which had allowed Uber to underpay their UK taxes. As a consequence, the UK government will be forced to ask the taxi firm to pay approximately £1.5bn ($2bn) that it owes the public purse in VAT on fares, both retrospectively and prospectively.
Alexander Kiltz writes about the European quantum computing startup landscape.
Congrats to Matt Falla on the launch of Parallel, a new innovation consultancy.
Spencer Bailey’s book on the design of contemporary memorials is out in the US next week.
Rafael Kaufman on crafting a long-term strategy in a chaotic world.
Joanna Mikulski writes about the record-breaking turnout of US voters abroad.
Lewis Lloyd’s report on using data and technology to advance policy-making.
Brett Bivens’ new podcast Landed is a playbook that aims to help emerging companies plan and execute their international expansion.
Ussal Sahbaz spoke at India’s leading digital policy event about how data localisation requirements could disrupt value chains and how emerging markets could mitigate this.
Taylor Stockton launched Pathway Ventures, a new seed stage venture capital fund.
Gilbert Leung co-launched Shuffle Public Beta via Product Hunt.
A job opportunity: Jack Pilkington’s team at the Royal Society is hiring two Policy Advisers to support work on Emerging Technologies and Data and AI. Details here.
Email email@example.com to share your updates and project.
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