🔮🚀 Blockchains & tokens; Uber’s business plan; Apple & Tesla have prangs; Chinese AI; meatless meat, lava lamps & North Korean spies++ #128

Behind China's AI domination. Brexit and Kremlin. Asset tokenization, ownership shifts. Throwback to Uber's early days. How Waymo covered 8bn miles of car training. Republican states and robot intensity. Clean meat revolution.

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DEPT OF THE NEAR FUTURE

🐉 Data, cash, users, engineers: perhaps China’s plan for AI world domination isn’t so crazy at all. Examples include the largest investment round in an AI company. (Also, superb essay about how one leading Chinese Bitcoin mining firm wants to turn its hardware expertise to the AI opportunity.)

🇷🇺 Kompromat! Quite an amazing tweetstorm unpicking a curious connection between a popular pro-Brexit account and the Kremlin’s foreign policy priorities. (See also, analysts find a feedback loop between pro-Kremlin Twitter bots and right-wing American memes. And a great profile of a physicist using complex adaptive models to predict behaviour of ISIS and the Alt-Right.)

💱 Blockchain promises to tokenize assets of all types, given them a much-desired liquidity. How will that change our notion of ownership? Preston Byrne gives a lawyer’s view of tokenization & liquidity:

“tokenizing” they usually mean “cutting corners”.

(This recent essay in Fortune provides a solid overview to the blockchain mania to bring you up to speed.)

💯 Estonia, which has pioneered thinking around citizenship in the digital age, mulls launching a cryptocurrency. Incidentally, global Bitcoin mining now uses the same amount of electricity as the entirety of Tunisia (population 11m).

📈 Eight lessons from tracking Gartner’s technological hype cycle for more than two decades. Also, is AI really the next technological revolution (in the Carlota Perez sense)?

DEPT OF UBER

✌️ What don’t you know when you found a start-up? A lot. When people look at leviathans like Google, Facebook or Uber today, they often see the negative impact of their dominant market positions. They forget that these firms started small, and, in Uber’s case, with bad PowerPoint. Garrett Camp, the other founder of Uber, just released the firm’s seed round pitch deck from 2009.

It’s a must read if you care about startups. And a must read if you’re opining on how regulators or consumers should deal with firms like Uber. The initial plan pitches Uber as a New York and SF limousine service whose ”Best-Case Scenario [is to] become market leader, $1B+ in yearly revenue.”

What you don’t know when you found a startup, eh? What you can’t know unless you go on that voyage.

To put that all in context, Uber’s revenues hit $8.7bn for the second quarter of 2017, more than double the same period last year. The number of trips is up 150% y-on-y driven mostly by developing markets, despite setbacks in China, Russia, and in the Middle East, against Careem, and in Indonesia, against Go Jek. (Leaked revenue details here.)

💰 Uber’s also softening its hard-as-nails Ayn Rand-ian image. It has introduced driver tips. In the first two months, driver tips totalled some $50m. Uber is estimated to have 2m drivers globally but tipping has been rolled out progressively so it is too early to say what the monthly per driver tip benchmark will be.

Jessica Lessin investigates Uber's CEO conundrum which includes an insightful comment by Roger McNamee. He "cannot see a “high growth” path out of this mess. The smart strategy is to retrench, conserve cash, try to make the model work and grow from there."

Perhaps, this is why many of Uber’s later stage investors are marking down the companies stock by as much as 15%.

DEPT OF SELF-DRIVING CARS

🏁  How Waymo trains its cars. Lovely insight, including how Waymo trains 25,000 self-driving cars in a virtual environment. They have covered more than 8bn miles.

Ben Evans: There are winner-take-all effects in self-driving cars: maps and software.

Apple has scaled back its ambitions in self-driving cars.

DEPT OF ROBOTS

China’s robot density lags behind many other major economies, but it is investing in a robot revolution which may impact the global economy:

By turbocharging supply and depressing demand, automation risks exacerbating China’s reliance on export-driven growth – threatening hopes for a more balanced domestic and global economy.

🐘 Robot intensity in the US is much higher in Republican-leaning states than Democrat-leaning ones.

😷 UK scientists create the smallest surgical robot.

What will it do to kids to have digital butlers they can boss around?

WHAT YOU ARE UP TO

🥂 Congratulations to long-time EV reader, Theo Blackwell, for being appointed to the Chief Digital Officer of London, working for Mayor Sadiq Khan.

SHORT MORSELS TO APPEAR SMART AT DINNER PARTIES

Quantum-computing firm Rigetti opens its innovation to 40 machine learning startups.

⏳ Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

🐮 An early leader in clean meat gets substantial support to kick-start the new industry. DFJ partner, Steve Jurvetson, on what excited his team to chip in. (The impact of moving away from meating would be felt in GHG emission.)

Chimps learn rock-paper-scissors similarly to 4-year-olds.

Scientist rethinking the nature of space and time after a discovery of an “exquisite” geometric structure.

Facebook’s security team eliminates 1m dodgy accounts per day.

🇰🇵 Watch actual North Korean spies get caught by Ukrainian security forces.

🌋 10% of the Internet is encrypted by lava lamps. (I wrote about this myself 20 years ago.)

What metals are really needed for the electric vehicle revolution? Lithium demand looks set to outstrip supply. Cobalt remains icky.

🔦 Tim Harford: Why didn’t electricity change manufacturing quickly?

END NOTE

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Best
Azeem

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