Who is Travis Kalanick? A detailed profile of the force behind Uber paints a softer and nuanced picture of the man. The imperative for a low-carbon future is made clear; with some super supporting detail about EVs. Examining machine learning: experimental captioning, in fashion and how to build products with it. Also, whales have culture.
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Dept of the near future
👍 Who is Travis Kalanick? Gripping profile of the über-boss behind Uber. Must read
🍃 Understanding the biocode. Human genomics is just the beginning. What about the rest of the planet’s DNA? Excellent, mind-bending
🔥😧 In favour of a low carbon future. An utterly superb Citi report on the status of climate change and our carbon budget, and an investor’s perspective on what we must do about it, and how to do it. 122 pages long. Highly recommended long read. (Taken me a month to get through it.)
🚘 EVs are better than petrol cars and will cut global gas usage by 40% within 25 years. It may not be in time for either the singularity or us maxing out the global carbon budget discussed in the report above. Recommended — good data & argument about auto industry and car replacement dynamics by @mbarnardca
😎 Excellent interview with entrepreneur & VC, Ben Horowitz. My favourite: “focus all your energy on product/market fit.”
💉 How Peter Thiel invests in biotech. Find ways of eliminating uncertainty at each stage gate.
Dept of machine learning
We haven’t drilled into machine learning for a few weeks in Exponential View. But there has been a ton of interesting stuff from primers to more advanced ideas pouring through the Web. Here is a small selection:
- AI hacker and AEV reader @samim has been teaching RNNs how to caption videos. Impressive. Highly recommended
- Good introduction to the how, why, good, bad and ugly of Deep Learning by @amine_benh
- Applications of machine vision in the fashion world. Really fascinating opportunity here to identify and predict trends. Would love to see these go deeper using epidemiological models to also understand spread.
- A robo-journalist is now writing perfect articles in Chinese for TenCent
- Here are five ad campaigns that have operationalised facial recognition (via @mrperrett)
- 😀 O'Reilly’s Evaluating machine learning models is a great free PDF. Really helpful if you are a product manager or engineer working with machine learning. (Which I assume is virtually every product manager or engineer working in tech today.)
Dept of climate change
Scorching. Sobering. That is how it feels right now. The Citi research paper at the head of this newsletter makes it clear that we are 60% of the way towards the 3010 gigaton carbon budget the marks the 2 degree Celsius danger line. At current carbon outputs, we’ll hit that limit in about 30 years, but carbon usage is growing in emerging economies. Will we bust the budget faster?
The cost of inaction could easily exceed $50 trillion dollars. And that before we factor in non-economic human and non-human costs, such as the emotional trauma of mass migrations, the destruction of cultures, the increased risk of violence and an almost inevitable mercantilism and inequality. The cost of inaction is less than 1% of global GDP (much of it on infrastructure in renewables and mitigation). At a time of broad stagnation, that extra investment might boost growth.
- 📹 23-years of rising sea levels as presented in this beautiful NASA video.
- The peculiar connection between global climate change and the rise of the robots by @dominicbasulto. Machines (which don’t need food, water or habitable environments the way we do) may benefit from climate change, as we suffer. Intriguing
- Poor nations want the EU and the US to recompense them for extreme weather. An interesting test of our models of justice.
- The US has the fewest number of coal mines since Thomas Edison’s time.
- Antarctica will melt if we burn all fossil fuels. We can all move to the South Pole and watch Waterworld as the sea level rises 200ft.
Short morsels for dinner parties
🐋 Complex animal societies can emerge from cultural transmission. Another myth of human exceptionalism being rebutted by the scientific method. Accessible academic paper but tl;dr blue whales have social strata mediated by culture.
The network’s the thing. @eugenewei argues cogently that the value of a social network is not the product feature (like tweets or ephemerality) that allowed the network to flourish. The value is the network itself. The socnets with audiences can afford to tinker. Excellent read
AI learns new words in real-time and offers to keep humans safe in its “people zoo” Hilarious, if you found Terminator hilarious
💀 New human species discovered. No, your husband is not the missing link. But this might be.
🐣 Hampton Creek, the vegan mayo people, must really be onto something. Government lobbyists are surreptitiously attacking this food tech startup.
The Isle of Man has become a hotbed of bitcoin innovation & practice. They still have that scary three-legged logo, though.
💰 A data scientist is making $11k a day beating the hoi polloi in Fantasy Sports. Survival of the fittest in this fast-expanding market.
LG shows off a wafer-thin double-sided 111 inch OLED TV
San Francisco’s latest innovation: shared bunks in communal housing for startup employees. Only $1800 a month.
😷 World’s first head transplant scheduled for 2017 via @barneyp
Hunger is at an all time low. Good news.
North Korean airline food is officially the worst. Not surprising.
✞ Technology would expose the sin in our hearts. As tech unlocks all our secrets, will we become better people? Never thought I would recommend an essay by a Christian Pastor on the subject of sin but it is Sunday today, so why not? (Also see “post-privacy future” in AEV#23.)
What you are up to
🚀 A few readers are involved in the mega-popular Kickstarter campaign to re-issue the epic 1975 NASA Graphic Standards Manual. I grew up in the 70s and 80s when that graphic style signified advancement, the future and man’s best side. Take a look!
My wife is away on business. The result? Several spare evenings during which I have been catching up on reading. Hence more links than normal. Back to the usual tempo next week.
P.S. I don’t watch movies on Saturday night so I can write this, so …. do forward to your friends :)