🔮 My Davos; the generative AI market; the digital yuan, transgenic ants++ #406
I’ve had an incredibly rich week at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos.
Hi, I’m Azeem Azhar. I convene Exponential View to help us understand how our societies and political economy are changing under the force of rapidly accelerating technologies.
In today’s edition:
Mapping generative AI,
Social media-addicted, socially-sensitive teens and the possibility of superminds,
Who was deep in SBF’s pocket?
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Highlight of my week
I’ve had an incredibly rich week at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, the lessons of which I’ll be sharing over the coming weeks.
Today, I’d like to highlight one particular conversation that is worth revisiting, on how technologies can be turned into the markets of tomorrow. During the panel discussion, we covered:
Why creating new markets through technological innovation is essential,
What kind of public-private collaboration creates new markets, taking the example of digital medical records in the United States,
What Rwanda’s journey teaches us about infrastructure and leapfrogging.
The panel also emphasised the importance of investing in education and a flexible, critical workforce. Watch the recording here.
From left to right: Azeem, Paula Ingabire, André Kudelski, Deemah Alyahya, Erik Brynjolfsson.
I’ve had many more interesting conversations this week, including…
On the risks and rewards of AI with Microsoft’s Brad Smith, Eurasia’s Ian Bremmer, Eileen Donahoe from Stanford University, and The Atlantic’s Nicholas Thompson,
How generative AI is changing the game, with ed-tech founder Priya Lakhani, Hiroaki Kitano from Sony, artist Refik Anadol, and Jean-Noël Barrot, France’s Minister for Digital Transition & Telecommunication,
Understanding the generative landscape
What shape will the generative AI market take? We are seeing the outlines form but it isn’t clear where the value will accrue. Model providers created most value in the field, yet they’re on the revenue back burner, generating relatively small returns compared to the revolution they made possible. This may be a passing phase of the market development, however. A16Z team does a great job laying out the map of the market as it comes together, and concludes
The potential size of this market is hard to grasp — somewhere between all software and all human endeavors — so we expect many, many players and healthy competition at all levels of the stack.
See also, how Google’s “Code Red” over chatbots has turned into action. There is a “Green Lane” for accelerated product releases and a wholesale scampering for answers, including calling the founders back for advice.
Exposure to social media seems to change adolescent brain sensitivity to social feedback - rewards and punishment - a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests.
The teens who checked social media more frequently showed greater activity in the regions of the brain related to motivation, control, and salience.
What could this mean for our society? On the upside, more socially sensitive individuals could be better at fostering certain forms of collective intelligence around them: they may give communication from other people more importance. For instance, this predisposition could support participative forms of democracy where being attuned to those around you is crucial.
Is the gravity of Twitter bringing the spaceman back to earth?
Twitter is a mess. The company cut access for third-party apps last week. The app now defaults to a truly terrible algorithmic feed called “For You”. Both decisions show the mercurial rationale for Musk’s acquisition: it’s just the old platform, with less openness (the end of 3rd party apps) and algorithmic-editorialisation run by a pared-down team and new owner.
The firm has also seen a 40% daily revenue drop year-on-year, as 500+ advertisers paused their spending since October — 14 out of the top 30! At the same time, Twitter might now be worth around $15 billion, stark contrast to the $44 billion Musk bought it at. And his interest payment is likely coming up. I always thought Musk’s acquisition had a slim chance of working out. I may yet be wrong, but it looks increasingly unlikely.
On average, workers save 72 minutes a day in commute time from working remotely. (About two-fifths of this time goes to the employer; about a tenth to caregiving activities.)
A new gold rush? BloombergNEF values the transition metal opportunity at $10 trillion.
Goliath beats David. Large hedge funds, with measly gains of 0.97% last year, outperformed small hedge funds in the USA for the first time since 2018.
OK, Boomer. Only 17% of baby boomers in Europe plan to “splurge” on themselves compared to 45% of Gen Z.
Short morsels to appear smart at dinner parties
🐼 Meituan, the Chinese shopping platform, launched a digital lottery enabled by a smart contract on the digital yuan.
🤮 How the prospects for plant-based meats have dimmed.
🇬🇧 The data show the UK really is in a deep funk and heading further south.
🧱 Neo-neo-classicism: learning from Ancient Rome’s self-repairing concrete.
🍞 Research has found a wheat gene that could make the plant heat-resistant.
🐜 Genetically-modified ants with fluorescing antennae are helping us understand how insects process scents.
🤠 Untangling the web: 1 in 3 members of the US Congress received contributions from FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried.
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