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329: Stylistic Fluidity Through AI, Shopify Flex Comp, Figma + Adobe, Gen Z vs Social Media, Steve Jobs, Musk & Buffett, and Converting Coal Plants to Nuclear
"IG is linkedin for your personality"
Nature is neither our loving mother nor our sworn enemy. It is amoral and indifferent to us.
—Jason Crawford paraphrasing Richard Rhodes
🗼What am I trying to do here?
I see it as a tower of Unbabel, where people understand each other, because they assume good faith, take the time to listen, and are genuinely curious to learn and correct our mistakes.
It’s a guiding light. Maybe we never get all the way there, but let’s try to move in that direction.
I mean, there are worse things…
I asked Stable Diffusion to show me the ‘Tower of Unbabel’ and this is what came out:
🚨🎧🔌⚡️💡🇪🇺🔥🇬🇧 Part 2️⃣ of my discussion about the global energy crisis and nuclear power with Mark Nelson is out, check it out:
If you missed it, make sure to check out part 1️⃣ first.
👦🏻🔨 Last Friday, I brought my 8yo to visit the daycare where he used to go when he was 3-4yo (his brother now goes there).
One of the things he asked me once we were inside was: “Did they do construction on this building? Things have changed!”
I told him that no, he’s the one that had grown a lot, so everything seemed smaller.
I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there that is more widely applicable:
If you grow a lot, what used to make sense to you in the past may now feel weirdly constrictive and too small… A reality that doesn’t change may seem completely different after we’ve changed.
I instantly regretted creating this hybrid of Buffett and Musk (Walon Muffett? Warlon Busk? Elrren Muskett?):
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🛒 Shopify creates compensation dashboard with cash ↔ equity sliders 💵
Grumbly Shopify employees whose equity comp from the past few years went up in a puff of smoke in the recent tech crash may now decide how much of their pay they want as cold hard cash and how much as equity.
Now, our employees can choose exactly how they want to allocate their total reward. Saving to buy a house? Take more cash. Early in your career? You might want to take more restricted stock units (RSUs) or options. We also killed the one-year cliff on equity, so vesting begins right away, and, because life happens, allocation windows will open a few times a year.
It’s a neat innovation that puts some agency back in the hands of employees — making it a bit harder to complain later if the ratio was disadvantageous — but I worry that human nature being what it is, that most employees will just pick whatever has been doing well lately, making them “buy” near peaks and “sell” near bottoms…
But hey, if anyone knows how to change human nature, let me know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
This Flex Comp (you can see a video of how the dashboard works) probably won’t be enough in itself to massively impact retention or prevent employees with a better offer elsewhere that *isn’t* flex from leaving.
Still, I think it’s a neat idea and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it spread to other Big Tech. SHOP 0.00%↑
🎭 Two Sides of the Same Coin, Figma + Adobe Edition
Jason Warner, formerly at GitHub, explained that when the sale to Microsoft was announced, “there was this abject fear at MSFT that open source & users would revolt and jump to GitLab. Not only did this not happen, our daily signups went up”.
Extra-Deluxe supporter Byrne Hobart (💚💚💚💚💚 🥃 ) nails why:
“This startup just got bought by a giant boring tech company” means one thing to people who sign up for free accounts and the opposite to people who sign up for $x00,00-$x,000,000 contracts.
How Gen Z sees various social media platforms 🤩😬
This video may be anecdote, sure, but it’s a piece of the puzzle that you can include in your priors at whatever weighting you feel it deserves.
Julie Young adds: “snapchat is the map/lifeline/messaging, IG is linkedin for your personality, fb is irrelevant, twitter is largely irrelevant as ‘social’ but not seen as cheugy/lame”
🖌🎨 The rise of subscriptions at Adobe 📈
🍎 Becoming Steve Jobs (Podcast)
One benefit of my friend David Senra (🎙📚) changing his business model to ad-supported is that full-episodes are now easier to share.
Today, I want to share one on my fave biography of Steve Jobs, the one by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli (someday I gotta go into what I like and *dislike* about the official Walter Isaacson bio…):
The parts about what Jobs called ‘The Apple Experience’ was a good reminder of how the best businesses do it: The metaphor is a bank account, and every interaction that a customer has with you and your products can create a deposit or withdrawal into this reputational sum.
Obsessing over every small detail helps ensure that good work on one side — ie creating a good product — isn’t negated by problems on another (poor service, frustrating store experience, etc).
🔥🗣🎙 Also check out my podcast with David:
🏡 🇺🇸 U.S. 30-year fixed mortgage rates (averages)
I wish we had 30-year fixed mortgages here in Canada. I got a 2.89% 7-year fixed two years ago, but if I had the option, I would’ve definitely gotten 30.
🧪🔬 Liberty Labs 🧬 🔭
🏭→ ☢️ US Department of Energy: Converting Coal Plants to Nuclear Power Plants
I don’t know enough about this to be sure if it’s a good idea, but there’s some logic in going somewhere that has an existing infrastructure for transport of large components (every coal plant has rail access), fat pipes for electricity transmission, and maybe some of the turbines could even be re-used.
Based on data and cost accounting structure, this analysis suggests factors that will likely bear on repurposing infrastructure, focusing categorically on office buildings and electric switchyard components and transmission infrastructure, heat-sink components, and steam-cycle components. Based on compatibility (or lack thereof) across these systems, this analysis estimates a range of cost implications. The results suggest potential cost savings on the overnight capital cost (OCC) of an NPP in the range of 15% to 35% when compared with a greenfield project, depending on several factors.
15-35% is a lot of moolah at that scale! 💰💰💰
But how many sites may be good candidates and what kind of impact would that have on communities that are losing their coal plants?
After screening recently retired and active coal plant sites, the study team identified 157 retired coal plant sites and 237 operating coal plant sites as potential candidates for a coal-to-nuclear transition. Of these sites, the team found that 80% are good candidates to host advanced reactors smaller than the gigawatt scale.
A coal to nuclear transition could significantly improve air quality in communities around the country. The case study found that greenhouse gas emissions in a region could fall by 86% when nuclear power plants replace large coal plants, which is equivalent to taking more than 500,000 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles off the roads.
It could also increase employment and economic activity within those communities. When a large coal plant is replaced by a nuclear power plant of equivalent size, the study found that jobs in the region could increase by more than 650 permanent positions. Based the case study in the report, long-term job impacts could lead to additional annual economic activity of $275 million, implying an increase of 92% tax revenue for the local county when compared to the operating coal power.
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👩🎨🤖 Stylistic Fluidity Through AI?
This is a follow-up to what I wrote about AI-generated art in editions #326 and #327 (check those out for more of my thoughts on the topic, though there still are plenty of aspects I haven’t touched yet):
One more thing that I find cool about generative AI is that “artists” (let’s define that broadly) can much more easily experiment with and use multiple styles.
For ‘human artists’ (we have to invent new terminology for all this, it gets awkward..), it can take a lifetime to master just one or a few styles and mediums.
Great oil painters may not necessarily be great at photography, or sculpture, or wood etchings, or pencil sketches, or charcoal, or digital painting, or 3D renderings…
All these images below are AI-generated, and it would take a human very different skillsets and years of not-fully-overlapping training to create them:
But it’s not just about switching mediums!
*Within* a single medium, it can take a lifetime to master one style.
Realism, impressionism, surrealism, abstract, pop art, portraits, landscapes, candid vs posed photography, etc. And then each artist’s own style: Abigail Larson is very different from Shinsui Ito or Johan Christian Dahl…
But now, someone with ideas that may fit each visual art medium (and new weird hybrids…) and style can fairly easily create something with the look of those techniques.
Maybe it’s crap, maybe it’s amazing, but at least it exists! Not long ago, most ideas would’ve just stayed un-executed.
The tools can be used many ways: Creators/artists can leave outputs as is, maybe modify them and digitally paint over them to “fix” problems, maybe combine a bunch of different AI-generated things into one big hybrid collage, maybe just use it as a way to kickstart their imagination with quick ‘sketches’ before manually creating something else completely different…
But in all these scenarios, it seems like such a game-changing tool. 🔧