Discover more from Liberty’s Highlights
246: Shopify vs Apple & Google, Cloudflare, Intel's Pat Gelsinger, Tesla, Amazon Go, Psychedelics, Sound Waves for Stem Cells, and Rules for Rulers
"This feels like forever ago, but it’s just been 4 months"
I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.
📘 A bad book has a huge cost.
Not the few bucks on the price tag, but the scarce *time & attention* you spent on it.
But a good book has a huge negative cost: you *profit* by reading it!
(h/t friend-of-the-show and supporter (💚 🥃) Luis V. Sanchez for the email that triggered this thought)
🇺🇦 🕊 A state of war is incompatible with freedom.
Putin has, by choice, taken the freedom of 41 million people (Ukraine has a bigger population than Canada). Hopefully just temporarily, but possibly for a very long time.
I try to imagine what it would be like if I lived there with my family, my wife, my boys.
Your life stops being yours, your plans for the future are erased, your kids are in constant danger, and may grow up in a totally different world than you thought they would, or deeply scarred. It saddens me to the core.
I don't think Putin is acting irrationally for him. He has been lying all the time; he has been shedding blood; he has been attacking anyone or any countries standing in his way. What he saw was no consequences, so he believes he can get away with that.
Putin's Achilles heel is that he and his mafia keep their money, assets, and families in the free world they say they despise. This helped them spread corruption, but it also gives tremendous leverage--if we're finally willing to use it.
While sanctions & asset seizures and the rest are still vital to isolate Putin's rogue regime, they won't save Ukraine now. 10 years ago yes, in 2014 and maybe even a month ago. But now more direct support of Ukraine is needed urgently.
Letting Putin crush Ukraine and murder thousands of innocents in a European war of conquest will redefine the world order. So would stopping him. We choose by action or inaction which world we want to live in.
This isn't just Putin vs Ukraine, just as it wasn't just Syria or Georgia. Putin was in Beijing days ago with Xi Jinping. This wouldn't be happening had they not come to an agreement. China may pretend neutrality, but dictatorships stick together. So must democracies.
Practical steps on what to do..?
-Support Ukraine militarily, immediately, everything but boots on the ground. All weapons, intel, cyber.
-Bankrupt Putin's war machine. Freeze & seize Russia's finances & those of him and his gang.
-Kick Russia out of every intl & financial institution. PACE, Interpol, etc
-Recall all ambassadors from Russia. There is no point in talking. The new unified message is "stop or be isolated completely".
-Ban all elements of Putin's global propaganda machine. Turn them off, shut them down, send them home. Stop helping the dictator spread lies & hate.
-Expose and act against Putin's lackeys in the free world. If Schröder and his ilk continue to work for Putin, bring charges. Ask the owners & advertisers of networks platforming Putin propagandists like Carlson why they allow it.
-Replace Russian oil & gas. Pressure OPEC, increase production, reopen Keystone. You can't save the planet if you don't save the people on it.
-Acknowledge there will be costs, sacrifices. We waited too long, the price is high, but it will only get higher. It's time to fight.
Can the Western media finally start calling Putin a "dictator" now? They've been trying to avoid the obvious for way too long...
Time to expand and super-charge the Magnitsky Act in many more countries. Time for Taiwan and South Korea to ban the export of semiconductors to Russia. Time for Germany to permanently cancel construction of the Russian gas pipeline, to restart its nuclear power plants, and for Europe to build more LNG terminals to get energy from allies rather than enemies. Cut Russia off from SWIFT, seize oligarch mega-yachts around the world…
This situation will also increase pressure on the West to regulate cryptocurrencies more heavily, because the Russian mobsters will no doubt try to circumvent sanctions that way. More collateral damage.
It’s terrible that the Russian people are held hostage by this mafia-state, and will suffer more. Russians, like Ukrainians, have endured so much historically. They should be able to have freedom, prosperity, and the ability to pursue their dreams, like everyone else. They deserve much better than the thugs that are holding them back from reaching their potential.
🍽 I ended my fast on Wednesday, 66.5 hours into it.
I didn’t reach my goal of 4 days, purely for psychological reasons.
I felt totally fine physically. Even the switch to ketones that happens about 48 hours into it, when your body runs out of glycogen reserves, was pretty smooth this time.
I just ran out of willpower ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
We eat for so many reasons other than being hungry — habit, social, to deal with emotions, as a form of self-soothing — and fighting these urges is the part that does require willpower.
For multiple reasons, I had low reserves of willpower this week and ended up tricking myself into believing that it’s fine, I can cut this one short and I’ll just do another one more quickly, in 1 month rather than 3, and it’ll still be better to have done 2 fasts during the quarter than 1 fast.
We’re usually pretty good at convincing ourselves, because we know our weak points…
At some point, I’ll write more about why I fast, but if you want a good overview of some of the reasons, this podcast with Peter Attia and Jason Fung is a good place to start.
💚 🥃 No plea today. It’s up to you.
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📊 A Word From Our Sponsor: Cognitive Quant 🧠
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Investing & Business
Remember when Elon Musk did a Twitter poll about selling 10% of his Tesla stock?
This feels like forever ago, but it’s just been 4 months…
Shopify’s next move in the game of chess against Apple and Google? 🚤🚤 🌊 🚣♂️
Ben Thompson (💚 🥃 🎩) has two great pieces this week on Shopify and the tight spot that they’re finding themselves in, being in the same rowboat as Facebook while Apple (and Google) are speedboating around, making bit waves in the ad/e-commerce ecosystem..
The first is free, and the follow-up requires a paid sub:
Here is the crux:
Now that Facebook is handicapped by Apple, Shopify should step up to provide substitute functionality and build its own advertising network.
This advertising network, though, would look a bit different than what you might expect. First, Shopify doesn’t have any major customer-facing properties to display ads; it could potentially build some cross-shop advertising, but that doesn’t seem very ideal for either merchants or customers. The reality is that Shopify merchants still need to find customers on other sites like social networks; the challenge is doing so without knowing who is actually seeing the ads.
Here Shopify’s ability to act on behalf of the entire Shopify network provides an opening: instead of being an advertising seller at scale, like Facebook, Shopify the company would become an advertising buyer at scale. Armed with its perfect knowledge of conversions it could run probabilistically-targeted campaigns that are much more precise than anyone else, using every possible parameter available to advertisers on Facebook or anywhere else, and over time build sophisticated cohorts that map to certain types of products and purchase patterns. [...]
I suspect the response of many close Shopify watchers is that such an initiative is not in the company’s DNA; that, though, is why the evolution of the Shopify Fulfillment Network is so notable: building and operating warehouses wasn’t really in the company’s DNA either, but it is the right thing to do if the company is going to continue to power The Anti-Amazon Alliance. The same principle applies to this theoretical ad network, particularly given that it is Amazon who is a big winner from Apple’s changes.
Very interesting idea. Not easy to pull off, but seems like an asymmetric bet 🤔
Cloudflare acquires Email Security Company Area 1
Price tag is $162m, about half cash, half stock:
Closely held Area 1 Security, founded in 2014, had less than $10 million in annual revenue last year, and is “growing quickly,”said Cloudflare co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Prince. In January, the startup said its “growth rate more than doubled” last year.
Clearly, they aren’t buying revenue, they’re adding the tech to their fast-growing zero trust platform (and there is surely a talent-acquisition aspect to it too):
Imagine a world where you can turn on email security to protect you against phishing, but if for some reason an attacker were to get through to an employee’s inbox, you can create a rule to open any unrecognized link in an isolated remote browser with no text input allowed and scan all email attachments for known malware. That is the power of what we hope to achieve by adding Area 1’s technology onto Cloudflare’s Zero Trust security platform.
Interview: Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger
Ben’s on 🔥 this week. This one requires a paid sub to read or listen to (the audio is available in podcast format), but I think the odds are decent that you have such a sub, so make sure not to miss it:
This should help Lisa Su and Jensen Huang take Ben’s calls. I would love to see that semiconductors series of interviews continue!
Interview: Peter Chernin, lessons from the content business
Peter ran News Corp and Fox for 15 years, produced a bunch of huge movies (Titanic, Avatar), was early to streaming with Hulu, etc. Good interview by Patrick (🍀). Really interesting guy with a pretty unique vantage on the film & TV industry:
I love this part:
I had launched Hulu with Jeff Zucker at NBC, we launched it together in 2007 [...]
Every single person in my company and NBC hated it. Every single one, the advertising people would say, “You're going to kill my regime, destroy my advertising.” The broadcast people would say, “Oh, my God, you can't give our broadcast shows, can't put them on a digital platform three days later and destroy our book of business.” The cable people said the same thing as the other people, “The syndication people will never sell anything in syndication.”
“You know what? Shut up and go back to your office. Your job is not to protect your business, because you can't protect your businesses. Your job is to maximize your business if you're running syndication, if you're running out ad sales.” My job is to build newer businesses faster than the old ones decay. I'm not going to not innovate in this area in the order protect these other old businesses. [...]
as soon as we both left, both of those companies started listening to the people who were trying to protect their business. So they would dramatically increase the ad load. They started holding back high quality content. … And I would argue it's one of the great business debacles of modern time because that thing was 100X better content than Netflix did launch within a year of each other. There was 100X better content. And Netflix today is a 200 plus billion dollar company. And Fox ended up being sold years ago for $70 million. And I don't believe they were well managed. I think it's a great example of the dangers of traditional businesses trying to protect themselves.
🛒 🥑 Amazon Go Tech Costs
According to internal documents obtained by Insider, $AMZN has now reduced tech costs of an Amazon GO store from >$4M/Store when they first rolled out to now just $159K. That’s a 96% decline. And it is projecting getting that down to just $59K by 2023.
That’s a steep learning curve!
Science & Technology
🔊🧫🦴 ‘Sound waves convert stem cells into bone in regenerative breakthrough’ 🦴🦴🦴🦴🦴
Regrowing or replacing bone lost to disease is tricky and often painful. In a new study Australian researchers have found a relatively simple way to induce stem cells to turn into bone cells quickly and efficiently, using high-frequency sound waves. [...]
“We can use the sound waves to apply just the right amount of pressure in the right places to the stem cells, to trigger the change process,” said Leslie Yeo, co-lead researcher on the study. “Our device is cheap and simple to use, so could easily be upscaled for treating large numbers of cells simultaneously – vital for effective tissue engineering.”
Once the stem cells have begun to differentiate into bone, they can be injected into the body at the site of an injury or disease, or coated onto an implant, ready to grow new bone. The team says this process removes the need for drugs that coax stem cells down this path, and makes the whole thing much faster and more efficient. Importantly, the MSCs can be obtained from other parts of the patient’s body, such as fat tissue, which is less invasive than from bone marrow.
Science FTW! 🤘
Interview: Leaders of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) 🧠 🍄 💊
Episodes of Infinite Loops (♾ 🔁) don’t usually end up in the science section, but this very interesting one fits perfect:
Friend-of-the-show and supporter (💚 🥃) Jim O’Shaughnessy has a great conversation with Rick Doblin and Amy Emerson from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
I liked how they stress that the psychedelic compounds aren’t magic, it’s the *therapy* that helps people, and the psilocybin/MDMA/etc just helps open you up to the therapy. You don’t automatically get benefits from these things, you also need the right context.
The Arts & History
The Rules for Rulers
Now is probably the perfect time to re-watch this great video by CGP Grey (based on the book ‘The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics’).
Interview: Anne Applebaum, Russia and Ukraine Context
This interview recorded last night with Pulitzer-winning Anne Applebaum, an expert on Russia and Ukraine history, gives good context on why Putin feels so threatened by Ukraine — not for Russian national security interests, but for *personal* interests.
Dictators are always most threatened by their own people revolting, because you can’t jail everybody. Ukraine’s move toward democracy and the West, most notably in 2014, was a visible example to Russians of an alternative to kleptocracy.