200: Growing Shared Knowledge, Live Nation, Apple & Tesla, Market Schadenfreude, Microsoft, Nick Kokonas, Eric Schmidt, Github Copilot AI, and Apple Semi Execs Interview on M1

"Zero-sum thinking is rarely fully compartmentalized."

Strangely, life gets harder when you try to make it easy.

Exercising might be hard, but never moving makes life harder. Uncomfortable conversations are hard, but avoiding every conflict is harder. Mastering your craft is hard, but having no skills is harder.

Easy has a cost.

—James Clear

🍾 Edition #200.

I guess I should celebrate the round-number milestone. I’m just not sure how…

It’s an arbitrary number, but hey, arbitrary or not, it’s large enough that it’s making me take a moment to pause and reflect.

The idea when I started this was to have a hobby where I could put interesting stuff I found that didn’t quite fit on Twitter, because different mediums have different implicit and explicit constraints, based on the format itself, and on the expectations of the audience.

Maybe also write some longer-form stuff that I simply never took the time to put together as Twitter-threads, or that wouldn’t quite work as such, because I’m not skilled enough at brevity, I suppose (this run-on sentence is exhibit #2843423).

So 200 official numbered editions since July 20, 2020, plus a bunch of special editions (interviews and podcasts, mostly).

Back in the Cenozoic era of edition #18, I wrote about the shared knowledge base between me and those who have been reading for a long time:

One of the things that I like about some podcasts that I’ve been following for a very long time, especially those of the “ongoing conversation” format, is that after having someone in your ears for hundreds of hours, you build up a huge shared knowledge base (even if it’s uni-directional and they know nothing about you).

It’s a tangled web of inside-jokes and details about people’s personalities, anecdotes about their lives or opinions about various things, their sense of humor, how they phrase certain things or think about the world or solve problems. Your mental model is getting to be of a pretty high-resolution after a while.

I was thinking that the same kind of thing may happen if I keep doing this newsletter for a while. There’s bound to be a few people who will have been reading from the start (and maybe have been following me on Twitter or forums before that), and after having read thousands and thousands of my words, we’ll have a shared knowledge base.

The effect is probably not as strong with text as with the human voice, but still…

The knowledge base of this newsletter is getting pretty big at this point. I can’t even imagine what it will be like if I keep going for a few years…

It makes me think of Alex Danco’s world-building ideas; someone new could get lost in the archives for a while and get to know me and the recurring cast of characters on this show, without me having to actively do anything about it, or even know that they’re doing it.

How do I feel about the project at this point?

Well, my #1 objective has always been to keep it fun for myself, because without that, I’ll just stop, so whatever other objectives I could have won’t be reached anyway.

Mission accomplished so far, it’s still fun.

A big part of that comes from those of you who have become paid supporters — not going to lie, it’s great to get emails and comments, but it feels really validating of the hard work to know that someone is enjoying it enough to not only send a few quick words, but also swipe the proverbial credit card.

🪐 In a email, new Extra-Deluxe (💚💚💚💚💚 🥃) supporter William Oliver called this steamboat a “serendipity engine”. I like that. I may have to steal it… 🤔

🛀 I’m fairly certain that the song ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ sounds pretty different to those who have seen David Fincher’s Zodiac and those who haven’t…

💚 🥃 The price of one alcoholic drink isn't a bad trade for 12 emails per month (plus 𝕤𝕡𝕖𝕔𝕚𝕒𝕝 𝕖𝕕𝕚𝕥𝕚𝕠𝕟𝕤) full of eclectic ideas and investing/tech analysis. That’s 77¢ per edition.

If you make just one good investment decision per year because of something you learn here (or avoid one bad decision — don’t forget preventing negatives!), it'll pay for multiple years of subscriptions (or multiple lifetimes).

As Bezos would say of Prime, you’d be downright irresponsible not to be a member, it takes 19 seconds (3 secs on mobile with Apple/Google Pay — if you don’t see paid options, it’s because you’re not logged into your Substack account):

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Investing & Business

Live Nation has a CAGR of almost 30% over the past 10 years

Pretty, pretty good. The recent rebound in the stock is particularly impressive, considering that live events pretty much went away for the duration of the pandemic.

I wouldn't have guessed quite that high over the past decade... I remember looking at the 10K around maybe 2014: it was really hard to understand the financials, and while I thought the actual business was probably quite good, and I liked that Greg Maffei and John Malone liked it, I never could feel quite comfortable enough and just passed on it...

…which is fine.

There’s always going to be a *a lot* more stocks that go up rapidly outside of my portfolio than inside of it, and I have to be fine with that if I don’t want FOMO to cloud my judgement.

‘Apple Hires Tesla’s Autopilot Software Director for Car Effort’

The iPhone maker tapped Christopher “CJ” Moore for its team working on a self-driving car, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Moore is working on the effort’s software, reporting to Stuart Bowers, another former Tesla executive who joined Apple at the end of last year. Bowers had led Tesla’s Autopilot team before departing in mid-2019. [...]

At Tesla, Moore implied that Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk had overstated the capabilities of the Autopilot software. [...] Moore signaled in response that Musk’s statements didn’t “match engineering reality,” according to a DMV memo summarizing the conversation. For many years, Musk has said he believes Tesla is close to releasing so-called Level 5 autonomy features, which would mean the cars can operate without human intervention. The current system, known as Level 2, requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel. (Source)


Market Schadenfreude is Lose-Lose

I thought this was a good articulation of a sentiment I mostly share (I mean, I won’t be categorical and say that *everyone* who *ever* did this *can’t possibly* be a good investor *ever*, but it’s certainly not moving my priors in a positive direction).

Investing, like most of life, should be about being the best version of *you* that you can be. When others fail, it doesn’t make you better. Celebrating their failures just makes you a dick, and certainly doesn’t pass the golden rule test (or the Golden Rule Plus™).

This type of behavior says nothing about others, but everything about the person who does it, by revealing cracks in their psyche that will no doubt come and bite them in the ass later.

Zero-sum thinking is rarely fully compartmentalized.

When you start to spot it somewhere, it’s probably not the *only* place where it’ll show up (“there’s never only one cockroach in the kitchen”, to use that cliché).

Be happy when others succeed, and sad when they’re going through hard time. Help them through both situations so they can improve, because your peers have a lot to offer and can in turn help you improve. Win-win, and it feels better for all involved.

Dammit, I did it again (did I just accidentally go Britney here?). I went all advice column… I’ll try to pace myself on the investing Dear Abby stuff.

Nick Kokonas on Moneyball for Restaurants

On Twitter Nick wrote:

Re-watched Moneyball tonight. Couldn't help but think that restaurants/hospitality are the equivalent of pre-moneyball thinking -- a fundamental misunderstanding of where 'wins' come from.

This will sound crazy -- but I genuinely believe that if restaurants followed a similarly data driven path most could pull down 20% margins while paying > living wages + benefits + creating great experiences.
Come at me... the famous operators who say this is not possible :-)

For those of you who don’t know Nick, I recommend starting with the Netflix ‘Chef’s Table’ episode about his restaurant, Alinea (season 2, episode 1). Then check out the podcast interviews he did (I wrote about a couple in the past):

He’s just very interesting and very smart, and if he says something like this could work, I would tend to listen to him very closely before dismissing it as “too hard, been tried, you don’t understand, etc”

Every Company is Flawed — Question is, which flaws could be fatal?

Friend-of-the-show and supporter (💚 🥃) John Huber wrote an interest post-mortem on his decision to sell Google last year, wondering whether that decision was good at the time it was made with the information that was then available — because there’s the danger of just looking at the result of the action and deciding whether it was good or not based on that, despite the fact that there’s luck involved and it’s possible to do well with a bad decision and vice versa, leading people to learn the wrong lessons:

I like that one of the central insights about the framework to know which flaws rise to the level of being worth selling a position for comes from my friend Rishi Gosalia (💎🐕):

Investing is not just knowing the flaws; it’s knowing whether the flaws are significant enough that I cannot live with them.

Nice crossover between friends-of-the-show. It’s a bit like when The Simpsons showed up on a Family Guy episode…

Names and Logos are Hard

Am I the only one who's brain saw "Hashish Corp" when first looking at this?

That would kind of give a different meaning to that cloud...

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Science & Technology

Interview: Apple Semiconductor Execs on Building M1 Pro & Max

René Ritchie, consistently one of the most thoughtful and best-informed Apple observers out there, has a neat interview with two members of Apple’s silicon team.

It wasn’t so long ago that Apple wouldn’t even have had execs doing interviews, and it’s a welcome change.

It’s a very very positive conversation, and if it was just any random product, I’d say that René was being too easy on them, but the M1 Pro/Max are so damn good 🔥 that this feels about properly calibrated for the circumstances.

Notion & Loop, Speed Edition

Got a email from reader and supporter (💚 🥃) Andy that mentioned Notion and Microsoft’s new Loop thing (which I wrote about in edition #199), and it made me think about another way that Loop could stand out from Notion:

🏎 SPEED!!!!!!!!!11

Notion has gotten a bit better on that front over the past year, but every version of their app is still basically just a browser-wrapper that loads a webpage, and that’ll never be as fast as a fully native app.

That’s why on the desktop, I now access Notion in my browser rather than through their app, because it’s basically just loading a Chrome instance anyway, so I may as well save the RAM and use the browser that I already have open.

Back to speed: If Microsoft Loop can figure out how to make things really snappy, that could be a pretty big differentiator vs Notion.

And hopefully that pushes Notion to focus more on speed, so everybody wins (ain’t competition wonderful if you’re not the one being competed against by Microsoft?).

Github Copilot AI Coding Assistant (🤖 OpenAI 🧠)

Tools amplify human skills. They help us be faster, stronger, smarter, have better recall, even detect water molecules on exoplanets in distant galaxies…

Software engineers use plenty of tools of the trade, but it looks like the AI revolution is further amplifying their skills, and helping them both speed up and maybe make fewer mistakes (hopefully, at least over time as the software itself iterates and gets better):

The open-source software developer GitHub says that for some programming languages, about 30% of newly written code is being suggested by the company's AI programming tool Copilot.

30%! I wonder what the methodology is to get that number, it sounds like a lot, but hey, if true, it’s huge for something that just recently came out…

I mean, Googling for something on Stack Overflow is probably also contributing to a huge amount of the code out there..

Let’s back up. What is Copilot?

Copilot can look at code written by a human programmer and suggest further lines or alternative code, eliminating some of the repetitive labor that goes into coding.

How it works: Copilot is built on the OpenAI Codex algorithm, which was trained on terabytes of openly available source code and can translate human language into programming language. It serves as a more sophisticated autocomplete tool for programmers.


h/t friend-of-the-show Brad Slingerlend

Interview: Eric Schmidt on the AI future

I thought this interview of Eric Schmidt by Tim Ferriss was pretty good.

Can’t say I learned too much from, but I’ve been following the field for a long time, and there’s benefit to refreshing your memory too, not everything of value has to be 100% new.

It’s probably a good primer on some possible future scenarios in an AI world to those who haven’t been AI and AGI geeks:

The link above includes a transcript, along with the audio, for the textual learners out there.

h/t Jerry Cap (💎🐕)

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The Arts & History

“One of these days Alice… Pow, straight to the moon!”

I knew this line for decades, I guess it’s just part of popular culture.. It’s been spoofed on various shows I watched as kids, etc.

I always kind of assumed it was some 1950s-1960s reference to some “impossible” dream about going to the moon, etc. That version in my head was kind of inspiring and retro-future-nostalgia…

I was going to use this reference recently but decided to look it up first to make sure I got it right.

Well, it turns out

It’s about a sitcom character making jokes about hitting his wife, and hitting her so hard that she lands on the moon.

Funny how the line was iconic to me, but totally out of the original context. I mean, I suppose the original context was not that actually beating your spouse is funny, but making jokes about it sure seems like it was. See for yourself.