299: Tech Layoffs, ARM's IPO, Real-time Starlink, EVs, Singapore Manufacturing, Germany + Canada, Corn Ethanol is Terrible, and Air Pollution & Your Brain
"Basically, everything about it sucks and is terrible"
The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.
🤕🩸🐶 I texted the son of the injured woman (context at the top of edition #296).
She’s ok, no concussion or anything too major. Some stitches on her finger and some “residual pain”, but otherwise healthy. I’m very happy to hear she’s doing well! 😮💨
😇 👿 When you deify someone and put them on a pedestal, you indirectly *underrate* their real abilities (because for a god to do godly things is just normal, but for a human, now that is impressive!).
There are some people who are/were the best in the world at what they do — Michael Jordan, Warren Buffett, Michael Phelps, whatever — and they’ve been household names for so long that we kind of go “well, of course, he’s Michael Jordan!”
But they’re just people, like you and me.
They may have freakish natural abilities, I’m not saying we’re all the same and life is fair. But they’re still human and fallible, they have limits and doubts, and had to work very hard to achieve what they did because their competition also has freakish natural abilities and works incredibly hard.
To me, it’s more impressive to look at their accomplishments as just some person’s feat than as “yeah sure, but they’re in a different category than mere mortals, they’re gods or aliens or mythical creatures”.
The reverse of that is also true. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin are *scarier* if you remember that they were just humans, not monsters or aliens or fictional villains.
People not so different from you and I have the potential for both supreme good and evil.
🔮🧙♂️🎲 The power of incentives, example #534,803:
Last weekend, I had a very nerdy day where 6 of my friends and I spent all day playing a game of Exalted (a role-playing game, think Dungeon & Dragons, but with different mechanics and backstory) with a professional game master joining us over zoom.
It was great, but there’s one key thing that I loved and that I want to re-use in a bunch of other places.
There’s a game mechanic in Exalted where you can “stunt” your attempt at doing something.
The idea is, if you just say something basic and boring, like “I hit it with my sword”, you get the normal dice roll to see if you succeed. But if you add more detail, or think of something really cool/original/epic to do, the GM can reward you with a level 1, 2, or 3 “stunt”. This adds dice to your roll and can give you some automatic successes on rolls that require multiple successes, improving your odds.
It may seem like a simple thing, but it *totally* changed the game, and after the first person does it, it rapidly teaches everybody else in the game to constantly be thinking of ways to make whatever they’re doing better and more interesting to get that reward.
I feel like this simple incentive made the day way more fun, and I now want to include that in any other role-playing game that I play (even if it’s not built-in the official rules), but I think it’s also worth learning from and generalizing — like, where else can I apply simple incentives to encourage people to go the extra mile and make things more fun?
For example, I’m still slowly building out a little treehouse online-community for supporters of this steamboat on Discord (🚢). Readers will be able to chat with me, but most importantly, get to know each other. I have so many amazing readers — friendly and curious and knowledgeable — and I feel like with the right place to meet without me in the center as the bottleneck, many would become friends and add a ton of value to each others’ lives.
Well, maybe I should find ways to have little rewards for those who are particularly nice and helpful to others, or funny, or who share good non-obvious information 🤔
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I like free stuff as much as the next person, but when I like something, I also want it to continue and be sustainable:
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Business & Investing
Tech Layoff Tracker 🥾🚀🌙
Stay up-to-date on the latest layoffs across big tech, tech unicorns, and top startups. So far in 2022, there have been 265 layoffs at tech companies with 55,376 people impacted.
Check out the incredibly tall chart where the Y axis is companies (Update: They changed the graph, it used to be super tall, and now it looks more like the one above) rather than employees. There’s also another site tracking layoffs at tech cos and startups (including during the early phase of the pandemic).
I’m wishing the best to everyone impacted by this. Losing a job ranks pretty high as far as life’s stressful events.
h/t friend-of-the-show Roadmap2Retire
🇬🇧 ARM’s post-IPO plans 💰
Ok, color me a bit confused…
Arm wants to use the proceeds raised from its upcoming initial public offering to look at pursuing deals and hiring more staff.
Chief executive Rene Haas told the Financial Times that the company would seek to step up its push beyond mobile phones and deeper into cars, data centres and hardware underpinning the metaverse. Cash generated through an IPO “can help you with M&A or you can hire faster — we’ll look at both of those areas”, he said.
Arm’s headcount has fluctuated over the past six years since SoftBank purchased the UK chip designer for £24.3bn in 2016. Staff initially almost doubled from 4,400 to 7,300 in 2021 but Arm is in the process of slashing up to 15 per cent of jobs after SoftBank revealed plans to list the company earlier this year.
So they’re firing about 15% of their employees to make the numbers look better for the IPO, but after the listing, they plan to use that cash to hire more people..? 🤨
🔌🔋 Electric Vehicles as a share of new registrations in the U.S.
Teslas accounted for 61% of all EVs registered in the U.S. in April, the latest month for which data is available.
The next closest were Ford (8%), Hyundai (6%) and Kia (6%).
Challengers like Rivian, meanwhile, have run into manufacturing bottlenecks due to chip shortages and supply chain disruptions.
In the San Francisco area, over 20% of new vehicle registrations are electric. Los Angeles and San Diego are around 12%.
🇸🇬 How Singapore got its manufacturing mojo back 🦾🤖
Interesting piece showing how Singapore reversed the decline in the share of its GDP that comes from manufacturing by investing in automation.
The city-state had faced industrial decline, with World Bank figures showing manufacturing falling to 18% of gross domestic product in 2013, from 27% in 2005.
Then manufacturing made a comeback in Singapore, rising to 21% of GDP in 2020, according to the World Bank’s latest figures. Singapore government data shows manufacturing made up 22% of its GDP in 2021. [...]
Singapore’s success has come by automating away many jobs. It has more factory robots per employee than any country other than South Korea, according to the International Federation of Robotics.
Fewer, but better jobs:
Manufacturing is becoming a white-collar profession in Singapore. The country’s manufacturing labor force has declined by almost 18% between 2014 and 2021. But the share of manufacturing jobs held by resident workers classified as high-skill—professionals, managers, executives, and technicians—has risen by 8 percentage points to 74% last year, said Damian Chan, executive vice president of the government’s Economic Development Board. He said the manufacturing value added for each worker—a measure of productivity—doubled between 2014 and 2021, to around $230,000, thanks in part to automation.
“Higher productivity is actually the main way we see that we can sustainably increase wages in Singapore,” he said. (Source)
Of course, every country has its own dynamics and peculiarities. Singapore has long relied on migrant workers for a lot of jobs, so automating away those jobs is less unpopular with the locals (where the unemployment rate is 2%) than it may be elsewhere…
🇩🇪🤝🇨🇦 Germany wants closer energy ties with Canada
Germany hopes to import liquefied natural gas from Canada to help replace the Russian gas it still relies on for more than a third of its imports, down from about half before the invasion of Ukraine. Germany and Canada have been discussing options for an LNG terminal on Canada’s east coast to export to Europe, German officials said. [...]
Scholz plans to visit Trudeau in Canada in late August, and German officials are hopeful the two countries will be able to announce an LNG deal by then.
Hey Germany, that’s all well and good, but how about announcing that you’re keeping open your remaining 3 nuclear plants and moving heaven & earth to re-open as many of the other 9 as possible…?
You could displace a lot of gas that way — I know it’ll be difficult and expensive, but that’s the corner you’ve painted yourself in, and LNG export terminals aren’t cheap either. Canada will be happy to export uranium, if you need it.
🌽⛽️ Corn Ethanol is terrible, evidence #34,565
From the abstract of a recent study on the US Renewable Fuel Standard which pushes for massive production of corn ethanol in the US (basically a giant wealth transfer to farming lobbies):
We find that the [Renewable Fuel Standard] increased corn prices by 30% and the prices of other crops by 20%, which, in turn, expanded US corn cultivation by 2.8 Mha (8.7%) and total cropland by 2.1 Mha (2.4%) in the years following policy enactment (2008 to 2016). These changes increased annual nationwide fertilizer use by 3 to 8%, increased water quality degradants by 3 to 5%, and caused enough domestic land use change emissions such that the carbon intensity of corn ethanol produced under the RFS is no less than gasoline and likely at least 24% higher.
Basically, everything about it sucks and is terrible, as anyone who has been paying attention has known for years. It’s more than time to kill this thing now that food shortages and energy inflation are acute problems.
Science & Technology
Real-time map of Starlink satellites 📡 🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰
This site has a real-time map of satellites, including Starlink’s 2,400 low-Earth orbit constellation. You can also see Oneweb and GPS sats.
When you see lines of dots close together, like sky caravans, that’s the recently launched Starlink sats that haven’t yet moved into their final positions in the mesh (I added some convenient arrows — they aren’t giant arrow-shaped alien spaceships).
🫁 🚬🧠 Air pollution hurts your brain: ‘inhaled toxic particles take direct route from lungs to brain’
Scientists have discovered a possible direct pathway used by various inhaled fine particles through blood circulation with indications that, once there, the particles stay longer in the brain than in other main metabolic organs. [...]
The scientists revealed they had found various fine particles in human cerebrospinal fluids taken from patients who had experienced brain disorders—uncovering a process which may result in toxic particulate substances ending up in the brain. [...]
"The data suggests that up to eight times the number of fine particles may reach the brain by traveling, via the bloodstream, from the lungs than pass directly via the nose—adding new evidence on the relationship between air pollution and detrimental effects of such particles on the brain."
🇳🇱 ☢️ ☢️ Netherlands to build 2 nuclear power plants
The details aren’t out yet, but they’re coming soon:
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, which put stress on the fossil fuel supply for much of Europe, a majority in the Tweede Kamer urged Jetten to further develop plans for nuclear power plants in the Netherlands. Following the coalition agreement, construction plans were announced and 5 billion euros have been allocated for the initial development of the plants, the NOS reports.
"We are fully committed to wind, sun and other sustainable energy sources," Jetten said. "But you also want a stable CO2-free energy source in that energy mix."
The government will need to find willing parties to build and safely operate the plants, and the plan is still years in the making. [...]
The VVD wants the two additional stations to be built in Borssele, where there is existing experience with nuclear power. The only working nuclear power plant in the Netherlands is located there
According to Electricity Map, the vast majority of power comes from gas, and they even export some of that gas-generated power to Germany and Belgium:
The Arts & History
🎤 🎹🎶 Spontaneous, Decentralized, Permissionless Artistic Collaborations
Tiktok has the most unexpected duets. Listen to this!
These artists would never otherwise meet in a thousand years. I love this.
I’m also always impressed at the sound quality that people can get out of Apple’s wired headphones microphone. Not perfect, but not tin cans tied to a string either.
(btw, I was confused by what she says at first, but she says she’s never seen the man’s video, but she does know the song, so it’s her first time singing along, but not her first time hearing the song)
"By creating and stoking a debate about corn ethanol as a fuel, your attention is diverted away from its primary role as an anti-knocking additive."
"Knocking occurs when gasoline burns unevenly inside an engine’s cylinders, resulting in unpleasant noises, reduced range, and accelerated engine degradation. The solution was to upgrade the octane rating of gasoline – a standard measure of a fuel's ability to withstand compression in an ICE without detonating – and a frantic search occurred for a suitable chemical additive that could solve the problem."
The alternatives to ethanol to solve knocking (and that have been used in the past) are basically pretty terrible.
1) TEL (Tetraethyl lead) - spread poisonous lead oxide particles from tailpipes of every vehicle (eventually banned)
2) MBTE (Methyl-tert-Butyl Ether) - dangerously toxic water pollutant that is water soluble (also banned)
Which leaves us with Ethanol.
"..blending modest concentrations of ethanol with gasoline not only solved knocking, but it also produced an outstanding motor fuel by the technical measures that mattered."
The more you know.....
"Challengers like Rivian, meanwhile, have run into manufacturing bottlenecks due to chip shortages and supply chain disruptions."
>>🤔🤔 It seems that Rivian is falling further and further behind. Perhaps they should just look to partner with the existing ecosystem, before they become a relic.😬💀