226: Constellation Software in One Graph, ARK vs Regional Banks, TSMC Expertise, China's Auto Industry, James Webb Telescope, and Don't Look Up
"the unwritten knowledge in people’s heads"
Simple things should be simple; complex things should be possible.
—Alan Kay, legendary computer scientist
Perl is designed to make the easy jobs easy, without making the hard jobs impossible.
—Larry Wall, creator of the Perl programming language
🧶👩🎨🎸🪚🔧 This is a follow-up, kind of, to what I wrote in edition #225 about my pointless hobby of learning some card shuffles and on how writing reframes how you look at the world and boosts curiosity.
Friend-of-the-show and supporter (💚 🥃) illuziun shared one of his new “pointless hobbies” with me, and how much fun he was having being creative with it, and we got into a discussion that I think has broader implications.
He wrote (just part of a longer email):
Its like when you start learning about something and it leads to something else and before you know it, you're four hours into a rabbit hole you didn't even know existed.
Your thoughts about writing making one more curious resonated with me in regards to any form of art.
What you describe is the creative process. When I start writing something, I rarely know what it’s going to end up being, and that’s the fun part.
I think it’s too bad that so many people don’t have creative outlets, because they literally don’t know what they’re missing. They think it’s like the homework they used to have in school, and often don’t realize that when you do it for yourself, it’s very different from when you have to “create” something for someone else..
You're absolutely right. Had my boss told me to create this, I think my mind would've just gone blank and I wouldn't have put near as much effort into it. I guess that's why founder-led companies are so special. They're ultimately not doing it for anybody else.
Yea, same for companies that allow a lot of autonomy and accountability for their employees. Goes all the way down
☕️ 🍵 🫖 🧉 On most days I drink green tea.
Lots and lots of Japanese sencha (I re-use the same leaves, so it gets less caffeinated as the day progresses, and I stop at 5 PM to try not to hurt my sleep quality).
Once in a while when I feel I need it for whatever reason, I make black coffee, and because I only drink it maybe once per 10 days, it really gives me a kick. I keep my caffeine tolerance low enough that, when I need it, I’ve got that extra gear available.
Lately I’ve been thinking about exploring Yerba Maté (a South-American tea-like drink).
Andrew Huberman was discussing it in a few podcasts, and it sounded like an interesting drink that kinds of mixes some benefits from tea, coffee, and chocolate.
You drink it in a cup/gourd that is 1/2 to 3/4 full of leaves through a special metal straw that acts as a filter. Seems like the kind of thing hipsters would like, but I don’t care if it’s popular or not, trendy or not, I’m curious about it.
I ordered a cup and a bag of loose leaves. Will report when I’ve had a chance to try it out…
🎓vs🛠 I’m not sure who drew this one (in the style of XKCD, but I don’t think this is Randall Munroe), but found it via Cora Dvorkin:
Update: Thanks to Thanos Massias for pointing out in the comments that this is a comic from Handwaving.
💚 🥃 Someday I should travel to places where the most supporters are and organize a get together in a restaurant or a pub. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Every supporter I’ve interacted with so far has been a top notch human, so getting a group together would no doubt catalyze something special… Join the club:
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Investing & Business
✨ Constellation Software’s Businesses in One Graph 🌸
Great graphic from Carter Johnson at MCJ Capital Partners.
It’s from a few years ago, so today there would be substantially more businesses, but Carter tells me that we may get an updated hi-rez version of the graphic sometime this year, so stay tuned.
Pandemic pulling the future 5 years forward? What Pandemic? What future?
Regional banks versus ARKK from the beginning of the pandemic to today.
What a flippening.
Follow-Up on TSMC (🇹🇼) vs Arizona (🇺🇸) Culture Clash
The TSMC bit also reminded me of this piece from The Atlantic, China Hawks Don’t Understand How Science Advances. Here's the key argument:
This is a worrisome sign that U.S. authorities are failing to understand something important: The most useful technology is not intellectual property in the form of written documents, but the unwritten knowledge in people’s heads....The U.S. is protecting its tools and blueprints while harming a far more valuable asset: its scientists and scientific communities...Every piece of technology is the product of a particular system and culture. A successful transfer demands the presence of the scientist, who makes technical adaptations and cultivates a talent pool that over time absorbs novel ideas.
Said another way, if you have your grandma's kitchen and your grandma's recipe, your chocolate chip cookies probably aren't as good as hers, because of what's in her head (there's an interesting example of the US taking German blueprints and tech post WW2 and not being able to do much with it).
This is such an important point.
People who don’t make things have this kind of abstract, idealized view of how things work.
It’s a bit similar to how finance people think that it’ll be easy for one company to copy the model/culture of another to compete with them…
If two companies were already pretty similar to begin with, or at least had similar output capabilities, this can work. But if you ask a company to radically change who they are to better compete with a very different culture/model, the success rate will be a lot lower (as Intel has found out in recent years, for example).
China lifting foreign-ownership limits on automotive companies
That will allow for full foreign ownership of passenger- and commercial-vehicle brands in China, rather than the existing system that has limited foreign ownership to joint ventures, freeing up investment in some of the biggest carmakers in the world.
It will also lift the restriction that foreign investors could only establish a maximum of two joint ventures in China. [...]
Sounds like a good development. Honda is taking advantage and has announced a new EV factory in China (capacity for 120k EVs/year).
Been a long-time coming:
The Chinese Government maintains a list of industries in which foreigners must invest at a maximum rate of 50:50 joint-venture partners, rather than full owners, and the car industry has had a place on the list since 1994. (Source)
It was never a full ban — like most things, at the bottom it’s about politics and who has leverage, which is why in 2018 Tesla was able to get an exemption to build a wholly-owned plant in Shanghai
Semiconductors in *everything* (say last word in Gary Oldman’s ‘The Professional’ voice)
Mario W. @mariowitteVerkehrte Welt: dank Halbleitermangel produziert Canon jetzt offenbar Tonerkartuschen ohne "Kopierschutz" und verschickt Rundmails an Kunden mit Hinweisen wie man die Fehlermeldungen zu gefälschten Kartuschen umgeht.
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Science & Technology
This photo of the sun might not look too impressive... until you realize it was taken at night – not looking up but looking down, through the entire Earth, using neutrinos rather than light. Amazing!
How and why? Here’s NASA explaining:
Neutrinos, along with things like electrons and quarks, are fundamental pieces of matter according to physicists' Standard Model. But neutrinos are hard to detect. Readily produced in nuclear reactions and particle collisions, they can easily pass completely through planet Earth without once interacting with any other particle. Constructed in an unused mine in Japan, an ambitious large-scale experiment designed to detect and study neutrinos is known as Super-Kamiokande or "Super-K". Only(!) 500 days worth of data was needed to produce this "neutrino image" of the Sun, using Super-K to detect the neutrinos from nuclear fusion in the solar interior. Centered on the Sun's postion, the picture covers a significant fraction of the sky (90x90 degrees in R.A. and Dec.). Brighter colors represent a larger flux of neutrinos.
🚀 🛰🛰 🚀 🛰 🛰🛰 🛰 🚀🚀 🛰 🛰 🌙 🛰🛰🛰 🛰🛰 🚀 🛰
h/t Nick Whitaker
The Insane Engineering of the $10bn James Webb Telescope
Speaking of launches into space:
The NASA engineer’s explanation about how, if you put a child’s nightlight on the moon and looked at it from Earth at night, you’d still get about 20x the amount of brightness than the things that the JWT is trying to look at was pretty 🤯
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The Arts & History
Don’t Look Up (Review/Thoughts, *Mild Spoilers*)
I’m ambivalent about what I think of this one. In many ways, a lot of it is bad, or at least, not “good” or “deep” filmmaking.
But there’s also an important way in which it captures the zeitgeist of the moment really well, showing how humanity is obsessed with BS, not able to pay attention to anything without being hammered over the head with it, and even then, everything rapidly fractures into tribal groups based on self-interest and/or identity.
So the movie being very un-subtle is kind of an object lesson in the movie’s message itself, which gives it kind of a pleasant geometry. ie. It needed to be this heavy-handed and caricatural if anyone was going to pay attention to it, as another nuanced documentary about climate change or social media polarization wasn’t going to cut through..
I’m still not sure what I think. Some performances were quite good, some moments were funny, the “family dinner” scene was powerful and touching. Overall I don’t regret seeing it, and it does make me think about what I’d do in such a situation, and makes me wish we could get out of our own way to deal with humanity’s problems more effectively and not mess up all the good things we have.