🔮 Eternal growth; superstar firms; AI vs Moore's Law; opensource rules; democracy in the age of AI; helium, vegans & the appendix++ #190
Endless growth is possible
Dept of podcasts 🎧
The central pillar to my plan as a Presidential Candidate is the freedom dividend which is a universal basic income plan where every American adult gets a $1,000 a month free and clear, no questions asked. This would be an incredible boost to dynamism, mobility, entrepreneurship.
I am in conversation with Andrew Yang, entrepreneur and author, who is running to become Democrat's next Presidential Candidate. We discuss his platform, which is formed around the right to universal basic income in the age of job automation and decreasing trust in institutions.
Listen to the Exponential View podcast here:
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Dept of the near future
💯 Michael Liebreich on how we can achieve endless growth, tackle climate change and build circular economies. This is a must-read essay. (There are parts that are polemical, that you'll have to get through. Michael put those in to tackle right-wing climate deniers head-on, as he explains here.)
🌀 What drives superstar cities, companies, and industries. Superstar dynamics go beyond firms and can be observed in cities. The 50 largest cities in the world account for 8% of the world population, but 21% of world GDP. (The piece lacks the 'so what'. My take is that this type if superstardom, arises out of some underlying process rather than clever strategy, then how do we design human systems that can cope with that underlying process? A good discussion of why it might be reasonable to assume there do exist such processes is in Geoffrey West's Scale. See also, this discussion on cities in the UK over that past 100 years. Manchester’s employment has grown 1%, London’s by 2m.) See also, Delhi's journey to mega city suggests it isn't plain sailing.
🎯 Andrew Chen on the metrics Silicon Valley investors use to evaluate early-stage startups. Since start-up creation is going to increase, this type of know-how will become the staple management know-how of business. (See also this perceptive take of an outsider's view of Silicon Valley.)
☁️ IBM acquired open source OS Red Hat for $34bn in the third-largest tech acquisition ever. IBM trades at about four times revenues, it acquired Red Hat for about 12x revenues, so IBM's boss, Gini Rometty, clearly saw something. It is a "grand play at out-sharing Microsoft's open source" strategy, argues EV friend, Phil Fersht. And not, he argues, at all about a desire to compete against the cloud hyperscalers, like Amazon and Google (which are miles ahead of IBM anyway, according to this wonderfully nerdy analysis of relative capex of the cloud giants.)
🔦 Andrew Ng, deep learning guru, on the coming impact of AI on jobs: every sector affected; conditional basic income; scalable, digital, life-long learning platforms; and no winter in sight.
Dept of pay-it-forward
Dept of governance
Marietje Schaake makes a strong argument for a rules-based order to keep the Internet open and secure:
The incentives to find common ground will likely not be inspired by shared political philosophies, at a time where zero-sum politics are rife and global powers are competing. Incentives towards global norms to protect the open internet and to keep it secure will rather be driven by an understanding of areas of mutual dependence on the security and functioning of the global, open internet. An attack on the core infrastructure will hurt all connected to it.
I agree with this overall perspective but I don't want to understate how hard I believe it will be to achieve that given the current retrenchment from the rules-based order towards a nationalistic or tribal one.
And this isn't, frankly, just about populist politicians. It is as much about people broadly losing faith in the shibboleth of that "rules-based order" for many reasons. Not least, as Marietje points out, the revelations of the US's global surveillance operations by Edward Snowden. Increasing incidents of state-sponsored cyber incursions, be it the US surveillance, Russian cyber attacks or rumours of insecure Chinese chips, increase the pay-off of mutually co-operative strategies while also making it appealing to cheat the rules more often. Mariarosaria Taddeo and I discuss this in our conversation here.
Constitutional Democracy and Technology in the age of artificial intelligence (excellent academic paper). Paul Neimitz on why we need to incorporate the rule of law, human rights, and democracy in the design of AI systems.
AI is now [...] largely developed and deployed under the control of the most powerful internet technology corporations. And it is these powerful internet technology corporations which have already demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to pursue public interest on a grand scale without the hard hand of the law and its rigorous enforcement setting boundaries and even giving directions and orientation for innovation which are in the public interest.
EV reader, Janosch Delcker, summarises the key arguments of the paper.
As China exports its telecoms and digital technologies, it may also be packaging its digital authoritarianism and restrictive model for emerging markets. "Democracies need to take immediate action to slow China's techno-dystopian expansionism" argue Michaels Abramowitz and Chertoff. (To get a flavour of that dystopia, check out this video of a public announcement on the Beijing-Shanghai bullet train.)
I thought the web would stop hate, not spread it, says Kara Swisher.
Factcheck.me allows you to find out how much of a given conversation on Twitter is being driven by bots.
🔥 EV reader and Executive Director of the Royal Statistical Society, Hetan Shah, on saving statistics from populism.
Dept of AI & automation
The exponential growth of AI is changing the nature of compute. "Conventional chips struggle to achieve greater performance and efficiency, demand from AI researchers is surging... the number of floating-point arithmetic operations needed to carry out machine learning neural networks is doubling every three and a half months." (And here is a good perspective on the challenges the end of Moore's Law are putting on the mainstream semiconductor industry.)
🚷 Profile of Mujin, a Japanese firm building pioneering human-free warehouses.
For the first holiday season ever, Amazon is hiring fewer temporary workers. 20,000 fewer as it happens. The reason? Better robots.
Walmart is testing a cashier-free Sam's Club.
🤨 European air travellers may face screening from an AI-based lie detector. (Which depressingly has been tested on only 32 people.)
Frederic Filloux on his journey to use machine learning to understand news quality.
✊ Mia Dand's list of 100 women to follow in AI & ethics.
How can you build ML systems for complex, nebulous reward functions, like the real world? (Recommended.)
Short morsels to appear smart at dinner parties
Nearly half of the world's electric vehicles are in just 25 cities, with Ningbo leading the pack. And these top electric markets are starting to solve the infrastructure challenge. (See also, China's electric vehicle industry may be 'crushing Europe's electric car dreams.')
🤩 Straight out of a Liu Cixin novel, China has developed a nano-fibre strong enough to build a space elevator.
🎈 iPhones are allergic to helium.
A third of Britons have reduced their meat consumption.
❗An interactive journey through the shifting climate zones.
Fornite's creator raises $1.25bn at a valuation rumoured to be $15bn.
Kara Swisher unpacking Elon Musk question by question in this 80-minute conversation. Worth a listen or a read.
😮 Does the appendix hold the key to Parkinson's?
Paying it forward. First of all, thank you, amazing people. Several hundred of you took the time to enjoy and rate the new podcast season. We briefly hit #2 top tech podcast on the iTunes UK charts. The US numbers look great. If you are in another large market, adding a rating and review can only help. I appreciate it.
But how much referral should a free newsletter - which readers enjoy - get during the course of the year? I think what's reasonable, and it's what I'm asking for, is to get one public share (a tweet, a Facebook recommendation or an email referral) every four months from each reader. Or three recommendation actions a year per person.
With 33,000 subscribers, that would be 99,000 recommendations a year or about 2,000 a week. The data suggests we get closer to 20 recommendations in a typical week. So there's a gap.
And some readers have been incredibly generous and creative with their recommendations over the past years. Thank you. But in general gap remains.
So here is my suggestion for an equitable arrangement.
If you are reading EV, I would like you to recommend it on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or by email at least once every four months. By all means, do more, but once every four months seems fair for both of us. (Starting today, of course ;) )
❤️ P.S. Scroll down to see what your fellow EV readers are up to, and email Marija if you'd like to share your project or news.
What you are up to
Gerard Grech and his team at Technation have released a detailed report on how and where $1bn tech companies are created in the UK.
Gemma Milne has a book about tech moonshots in the works. Congrats!
Stefaan Verhulst shared his and Andrew Young's report on the use of distributed ledger technologies in identity management.
The last essay of Rob Reid's four-part series "Privatizing the Apocalypse".
Anab Jain's Superflux launched a Kickstarter campaign for a beautiful Tarot deck that helps you navigate the complexities of our tech-saturated reality.
Lydia Kostopoulos on all the ways humans will build meaning in life after technological unemployment.