324: Microsoft Combat Goggles, History of AWS, Disney Prime, Netflix Ads, Crowdstrike 101, Internet Stocks, Demographics Crisis, Robots, and AI Artists
"That photo of WWII marines fighting Chuthulu"
Going through life without anyone telling you that you are wrong is a horrible and eventually debilitating fate.
💔 🎩 One of the members of our community is going through something difficult.
I won’t say more because I want to respect their privacy, but I also want to acknowledge that my heart truly feels for them and their family. Knowing how nice and thoughtful other readers and supporters are, I’m sure they would feel exactly like I do if they knew the details.
I know, it’s cryptic, but I didn’t want to stay silent on this.
🙌🏆🙌…💣 Is there anything that feels better than predicting something very publicly and being right about it?
Too bad it’s very dangerous for the health of your future predictive abilities, and encourages mistakes based on chasing that feeling again or over-estimating our prowess (because it’s always hard to know what was luck vs skill).
Ideally, you’d predict in private and be right in private, but that’s a much lower dopamine payload ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
🧠 😡🥰🥺😞 It’s interesting to think about emotions as having inertia and momentum.
Once I started thinking in those terms, I see it everywhere, in myself and others. The idea is fairly obvious intuitively, but putting it in physics terms helps me compress the idea.
Sometimes you just have to wait something out, or take into account that it’s going to color how you see the next thing, or that someone else just needs some processing time, or that you should strike while the iron’s hot when someone’s excited about something or motivated because that won’t last…
💚 🥃 Did you know that “you get what you pay for” goes both ways?
You enjoy more what you pay for. It’s a well-known effect…
…which means that when you become a paid supporter, you enjoy this newsletter more!
I’m not the one saying it, it’s science 🔬👩🔬🧪 ¯\(ツ)/¯
Liberty’s Highlights is reader-supported. To support my work, consider becoming a paid supporter. 🥷
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Microsoft Combat Goggles get US Army approval 🥽🪖
“Microsoft combat goggles” isn’t a phrase I would’ve expected to ever read just a few years ago… 🤔
If you thought warfare was getting pretty sci-fi with unmanned drones, loitering munitions, and using Starlink to get around destroyed infrastructure, well, it’s about to get even more James Cameron-esque thanks to these AR goggles:
The US Army is taking delivery of a first batch of high-tech combat goggles made by Microsoft Corp., citing encouraging results from testing in the field.
Assistant Secretary for Acquisition Douglas Bush has “cleared the Army to begin accepting” some of the 5,000 sets of goggles [...]
Microsoft’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, is expected to provide a “heads-up display” for U.S. ground forces, similar to those for fighter pilots. The system — a customized version of Microsoft’s HoloLens goggles — would let commanders project information onto a visor in front of a soldier’s face and would include features such as night vision.
The Army projects spending as much as $21.9 billion over a decade on Microsoft’s combat goggles, spare parts and support services if all options are exercised.
‘Internet Stocks’ 2022 YTD Performance 😬
h/t Modest Proposal
Demographics, China vs Others Edition 😬
These graphs show China in red compared to, at the top, a group of other countries facing similar projected declines, and at the bottom, a group of countries where immigration is bringing in more young people into the mix.
Note that immigration may help at the country level — and it has largely been the super-power of the U.S., being able to attract a lot of the top talent from the rest of the world for decades — but at the planetary level, it’s just moving pieces around on the board without creating new ones (zero-sum).
Back in edition #320, I wrote about South Korea’s terrible fertility rate and mentioned that having more kids isn’t the only solution:
It’s a tragedy. Too bad the human mind has trouble grasping the severity of events when they’re happening slowly… 🐌
I think an obvious solution is to massively increase worldwide efforts on curing and mitigating the diseases of aging to radically expand *healthy* and *youthful* life, but we’re also going to have more kids, because societies where the demographic pyramid flips around have all kinds of problems that aren’t easy to solve (especially not quickly — problems that are created slowly are rarely solved quickly).
h/t John Burn-Murdoch, via a locked account that starts with a “N” (🔐)
🚨 The history of AWS (Acquired Podcast) 🚨
There are a few things that I can recommend sight unseen (sound unheard?), and this podcast is one. It’s almost 3 hours long, and is a follow-up to the opus they recently released on the retail side of Amazon.
I’m really looking forward to it:
Enjoy, I know I will! AMZN 0.00%↑
🐭 ‘Disney Explores Membership Program Like Amazon Prime’ 🤔
Walt Disney is exploring a membership program that could offer discounts or special perks to encourage customers to spend more on its streaming services, theme parks, resorts and merchandise, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Interesting idea, though I don’t think they’re in quite the position that Amazon is to benefit from this.
Amazon sells almost *everything*, so frequency of purchases is high, and reducing friction with faster/free shipping can make a big difference in where buyers even begin their search for something to buy. Add a few other churn-reducing niceties like Prime Video, Amazon Music, etc, and subs rarely leave.
With Disney, even if you have kids, the frequency must be a lot lower, and what they have to offer is also more limited…
🏎 📺 Netflix’s Ad Tier Racing Disney+’s Ad Tier…
Netflix is moving up the timeline for the debut of its cheaper, ad-supported plan to November — in order to get out before the Dec. 8 launch of the Disney+ tier with advertising.
In July, Netflix told investors that it was targeting the launch of the ad-supported plan “around the early part of 2023.” But now, Netflix’s ad-supported is set to go live Nov. 1 in multiple countries, including the U.S., Canada, U.K., France and Germany
The announcement of the ad tier seemed kind of rushed to begin with, and now they’re rushing even more 🤔
I hope they’re still taking the time to get it right. The move to preempt Disney+ seems weirdly competition-centered rather than product-centered… NFLX 0.00%↑
🦅 Crowdstrike Overview (Podcast)
Nice Business Breakdown on Crowdstrike. It’s a good 101 for those of you who aren’t too familiar with the business and want a good starting point:
Roneal does a great job explaining what they do without getting too technical, and giving a good overview of the landscape and the evolution of the dominant security models over time and why Crowdstrike is gaining share from legacy vendors.
The part about how they were slower than 2 other companies in their cohort, but took their time to get the product right (especially with the high-powered SWAT team..) and this helped them win against the first-movers was great. CRWD 0.00%↑
🇺🇸 U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve level 🛢🛢🛢🛢🛢🛢📉
🧪🔬 Liberty Labs 🧬 🔭
🌎 🤖 More Robots Needed? 🤖 🌏
Noah Smith has a long piece on automation and labor.
I can’t summarize it all, but the short-term argument for more robots & automation is pretty strong if we’re into a long cycle where the US and other Western countries are trying to bring back some manufacturing home to be less dependent on China:
The central fear of automation is that it will render human workers obsolete, just as horses were once rendered obsolete by mechanization. This is possible in theory, but as of today it’s pure science fiction. In today’s America, almost everyone that wants a job has one. The prime-age employment-to-population ratio — in my assessment, the best single indicator of the labor market — is now at about the same level as at the peaks of 2019, 2007, and 1990.
While I tend to agree with those who think automation will *eventually* make a lot (A LOT) of human skills obsolete, I also agree that in the short term, labor shortages are a bigger problem than lack of jobs for the humans that need them, and that in a less globalized world where more countries need home-grown capabilities in various industries, robots are the only way to get there.
In order to make reshoring happen, though, we will need automation, automation, and more automation. We are a capital-rich, high-technology country with high wages — the only way we can compete effectively with China is by leveraging our superior technology and our abundant capital. In other words, we can beat China in manufacturing, but only if we use lots and lots of robots, AI, and every other kind of automation we can think of. This is how Singapore has revived their manufacturing sector; we need to take a page from their book. Only with robots can our workers win.
Behind-the-Scenes Story of Intel’s First 1-Million Transistors Chip (from 1989) 💾
We often don’t realize how much work goes into pushing the bleeding edge of technology forward, and how many very talented people work on these projects for years…
Here’s a good history of Intel’s i860 RISC chip:
IN SAN FRANCISCO on Feb. 27, 1989, Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., startled the world of high technology by presenting the first ever 1-million-transistor microprocessor, which was also the company’s first such chip to use a reduced instruction set.
The number of transistors alone marks a huge leap upward: Intel’s previous microprocessor, the 80386, has only 275,000 of them. But this long-deferred move into the booming market in reduced-instruction-set computing (RISC) was more of a shock, in part because it broke with Intel’s tradition of compatibility with earlier processors—and not least because after three well-guarded years in development the chip came as a complete surprise. Now designated the i860, it entered development in 1986 about the same time as the 80486, the yet-to-be-introduced successor to Intel’s highly regarded 80286 and 80386.
While the CISC 486 won out, what made the i860 particularly interesting was that as the first RISC chip by Intel, they started out with a blank sheet of paper (which is rare in engineering — you usually build on what came before, have to support legacy, etc).
Jerry Seinfeld in Pulp Fiction, Deepfake Edition 😳
🎨 🎭 Liberty Studio 👩🎨 🎥
DALL-E 2 vs Midjourney vs Stable Diffusion 🎨 🤖 📸
I’ve written a lot about DALL-E and similar AI tools to create images based on text prompts. The field is moving so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with the capabilities of various tools.
Here’s an interesting Twitter thread that compares the outputs of Midjourney, DALL-E 2, and the latest kid on the block, Stable Diffusion. They are given the same inputs, so you get a sense of the stylistic biases of each, and their strengths and weaknesses — for example, Stable Diffusion seems less artsy and more realistic at times. That photo of WWII marines fighting Chuthulu is quite something…
Note the first example I’m using above, of a behind-the-scenes photo of the faking of the moon landing. 🚀🌖
It’s funny, but also scary to think of how hard it’ll be to trust anything we see in the near future — photos, audio recordings of people speaking, and increasingly video.
ML models will be able to create convincing fakes of all this, with potentially catastrophic consequences if we don’t grow a good societal immune system to deal with it. Wars can be started on false information, elections can be influenced, innocents can be lynched or jailed… (I know all this has already happened, but I’m saying it could get worse)