Discover more from Liberty’s Highlights
343: Twitter's 75% Cuts?, TSMC + Japan, Stability AI & OpenAI, Supply Chains, Crypto Hacks, Germany's Coal, Mosquitoes, and Grand Theft Lebowski
"The future is our responsibility."
One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important. —Bertrand Russell
😴💭👨🏻🏫🎓😫 I’m 40, but once in a while, I still have anxiety dreams about high school and University.
They’re mostly about having to wing it on a test that I haven’t studied for, or doing a bunch of homework in a rush that I’m late on and nothing I’m looking at makes any sense.
It’s interesting how memory can be kind of U-shaped:
I remember a lot about my formative years, from say, 5 to 22, and then there’s a kind of fuzzy period in the middle with lots of vignettes that stand out, but also lots of black holes. And then the recent past is in fairly high-definition.
I’m pretty sure that if/when humans live to be hundreds of years old, they’ll still have vivid dreams about their teen years…
🛀 Remember when Clubhouse was going to be the next big thing?
There was a real mania around it for a while, you couldn’t be online without hearing about it. It wasn’t quite Bitcoin in 2017 (I remember watching a PUBG stream on Twitch at the time, and the streamer was talking about crypto with his chat), but it was pretty intense.
It must be quite an emotional rollercoaster to work at a company that goes through something like that. Yes, we’ve made it, we’re on top of the world! Hey, where did everybody go?
🍔👨🔬 This may be more details than you’ve ever wanted to know about the science of making good burger patties, but I enjoyed this video by Ethan Chlebowski about it.
💚 🥃 🐍 Thanks to J.S.. S.A., and B. for becoming paid supporters since Friday. Rock on! 🤘
It’s kind of cheesy, but I’ve decided that I like having mini-goals along the way, so I’m going to track how many paid supporters are joining the crew since my plea-from-the-🫀in edition #338, with the goal of reaching 100 new ones.
And if we’re doing cheesy, may as well go all the way to telethon-style!
⭐️ So far we’re at 13/100 of our goal! ⭐️
(I’ll just track gross adds here, not net adds, because it’d be a bummer to see it go backward once in a while)
Liberty’s Highlights is reader-supported. To support my work, consider becoming a paid supporter. 🐍
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Business & Investing
🔪🐦✂️ Elon Musk reportedly plans to cut ˜75% of Twitter employees (2nd and 3rd order effects on tech industry? 🤔)
Elon Musk told prospective investors in his deal to buy the company that he planned to get rid of nearly 75 percent of Twitter’s 7,500 workers, whittling the company down to a skeleton staff of just over 2,000.
Even if Musk’s Twitter deal falls through — and there’s little indication now that it will — big cuts are expected: Twitter’s current management planned to pare the company’s payroll by about $800 million by the end of next year, a number that would mean the departure of nearly a quarter of the workforce
While this is noteworthy in itself, what I wonder most about are the second and third-order impacts that this would have. TWTR 0.00%↑
What would it mean for other tech companies that could be described as “fat”?
Does this open the floodgates and give permission to others to be a lot more drastic than they’ve been?
Nothing’s done and there’s a lot we don’t know, but if he does it and if it “works”, I suspect it may be the first domino to fall and we may see a kind of neutron bomb effect in the tech industry…
The balance will likely fall between two competing forces: 1) Show more profitability at a time when the market is looking for that and 2) don’t show too much profitability to avoid getting unwanted regulatory attention.
ie. Maybe you could run Google and Visa and companies like that with much lower opex, but at some point, the margins just become kind of embarrassingly good… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
TSMC 👀 Japan 🇯🇵
TSMC is already building a big trailing-node fab in Japan, but it’s apparently considering building even more production there, and the Japanese government looks willing to incentivize that:
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is considering expanding its production capacity in Japan, people familiar with the matter said, in what would be a move by the world’s largest contract chip maker to reduce geopolitical risk.
The Japanese government has signaled that it would like TSMC to expand in the country beyond a factory already under construction, but no decision has been made yet and TSMC is studying the feasibility, these people said. [...]
[TSMC] is building its first chip-manufacturing plant in Japan, located on the southern island of Kyushu. The multibillion-dollar plant is subsidized by the Japanese government. [...]
The plant is set to focus on less-advanced chips commonly used in autos and components like sensors, and it is scheduled to ship products in late 2024. A company called Japan Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing, majority-owned by TSMC, is building the plant.
If it expands beyond the current plan, TSMC would look at building more advanced chips in Kyushu, the people familiar with the matter said.
‘Stability AI Raises Seed Round at $1 Billion Value’ 🤖🤖🤖💰
If a friend-of-the-show is chairman of a company, does that make it a friend-of-the-show company? Is there a transitive property to friendship that applies to institutions? 🤔
In any case, Stability AI, best known for Stable Diffusion, but they’re also working on plenty more, just raised some moolah, some clams, some rupees, some paper, some dough, some green, some coin, some tomatoes.
In other words, y’know, they raised some tamales:
Stability AI raised $101 million in a seed round led by Coatue Management and Lightspeed Venture Partners [...]
The round values London-based Stability AI at around $1 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter [...] A representative for Stability AI declined to comment on the valuation.
It’ll be very interesting to see what they do with the shekels.
What sets Stable Diffusion apart from competitors is that its open-source software is available to the public. Users can build on its code to produce applications related to design, film, augmented reality, video games, advertising and even e-commerce. It also works on small devices.
Its web application DreamStudio has more than 1.5 million users and Stable Diffusion has more than 10 million daily users across all channels, according to Emad Mostaque, chief executive officer of Stability AI. [...]
Stability AI plans to use the funding to deploy custom versions of the model for users at a larger scale and to invest in more supercomputing power. It will also be hiring more people, with Mostaque saying he expects to grow to about 300 employees from 100 over the next year.
From a different source: “Stability AI has a cluster of more than 4,000 Nvidia A100 GPUs running in AWS, which it uses to train AI systems, including Stable Diffusion”
CEO Emad Mostaque has said they want to grow the size of their training cluster by multiple Xs. By now they’re probably ordering H100s from Nvidia, which are particularly optimized for transformer models — this thing will kill.
Microsoft invests $1bn in OpenAI for AGI research 🤖💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰💰
Speaking of AI investments, Microsoft is investing $1 billion (to be said in the voice of Dr. Evil) into OpenAI: MSFT 0.00%↑
Microsoft is investing $1 billion in OpenAI to support us building artificial general intelligence (AGI) with widely distributed economic benefits. We’re partnering to develop a hardware and software platform within Microsoft Azure which will scale to AGI. We’ll jointly develop new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, and Microsoft will become our exclusive cloud provider—so we’ll be working hard together to further extend Microsoft Azure’s capabilities in large-scale AI systems. [...]
an AGI will be a system capable of mastering a field of study to the world-expert level, and mastering more fields than any one human — like a tool which combines the skills of Curie, Turing, and Bach. An AGI working on a problem would be able to see connections across disciplines that no human could. We want AGI to work with people to solve currently intractable multi-disciplinary problems
Artificial General Intelligence is THE meta-technology.
What differentiates humanity from other animals is our intelligence. It’s the meta-skill from which *all* our other unique tools and skills emanate.
Creating something of higher-than-human general intelligence can change *everything* — but because this is so powerful, it’s also very important to get it right, which is why I’m equal parts excited and terrified by the prospect.
There’s a kind of anthropic principle going on that says that we’re in a civilization that hasn’t destroyed itself, because otherwise, we wouldn’t be here to wonder about it. But that says nothing about the future, only about the past. The future is our responsibility.
Getting AI alignment right is devilishly difficult, and I certainly hope that those working on AGI don’t take shortcuts, because the more powerful a technology is, the more costly mistakes can be, and some mistakes are hard to recover from (screw something up with your bow and arrow and you could hurt yourself or someone, screw something up with nuclear weapons and, well…).
If you use an amazing tool to do 999 great things (cure cancer, etc), but it’s also used by a suicidal psychopath to create a synthetic-biology virus that is maximally optimized to wipe out the human race in a way that our immune systems can’t do anything about by spreading silently in a dormant form and activating only 3 years later once everybody has it, then the 999 great things won’t have mattered much.
Hey, supply chain! How ya doin’?
Liz Ann Sonders: “Supply chain stress essentially back to pre-pandemic level (black line is average) ; commodities & used car prices helping lead on way down”
I’d certainly be curious to get an update on what Ryan Petersen (⚓️) is seeing, as he’s got a great overview of a lot of this at Flexport…
Crypto Hacks vs Armed Robberies 💰💰💰💰
I was thinking about the oh-so-common headlines in the past few years about Crypto exchanges being hacked for hundreds of millions of dollars (just this morning there’s one about the “$570 million crypto attack” at Binance).
It made me wonder what’s the most money that was stolen in a physical armed robbery 🤔
A quick search reveals:
Dunbar Armored robbery is the largest cash robbery to have occurred in the United States. On September 12, 1997, six men robbed the Dunbar Armored facility on Mateo St. in Downtown Los Angeles, California of US$18.9 million (equivalent to $31.9 million in 2021)
There are a few big ones from the UK that are just under $100m, and a huge one close to $1bn in Iraq, but I’m not sure if it counts when it involves Saddam Hussein and his sons…
In any case, maybe Michael Mann will have the plot of Heat 2 be about a bunch of crypto hackers…
Science & Technology
🇨🇦 Tour of Bruce, the world’s second-largest nuclear power plant ☢️
I enjoyed the tour. Hopefully, it helps update the mental picture of many people who would otherwise think of The Simpsons when they imagine a nuclear power plant 😬
🇩🇪 Germany to burn even more coal to “conserve gas” 🏭🪨🏭🏭🏭🪨🏭🏭🏭🪨🏭🏭🏭🪨🏭🏭🏭🪨
Congrats German “Greens”, you played yourselves:
Even with [gas] storage almost full, Germany needs to secure more imports of gas to get through the winter without shortages [...]
Uniper already brought back its 875-megawatt Heyden-4 coal power plant in August, making a total of about 4 gigawatts of hard coal added to the system. Germany plans to reopen 6.9 gigawatts of coal and 1.9 gigawatts of lignite capacity to boost supplies (Source)
By focusing on destroying nuclear power, mostly for made-up reasons that don’t stand to scrutiny, “Greens” made Germany vulnerable to Putin — and we’re just beginning to see the economic ravages that high energy costs will cause to Germany’s best-in-class industry — *and* they ensured that way more coal and gas will be burned for the foreseeable future (despite investing over 500 billion euros in solar and wind in recent times — how many nuclear power plants can be built and refurbished for that amount, I wonder? 🤔).
‘Some People Really Are Mosquito Magnets, and They’re Stuck That Way’ 🧲🦟🦟🦟🦟🦟🦟
In a new paper published on October 18 in the journal Cell, researchers suggest that certain body odors are the deciding factor. Every person has a unique scent profile made up of different chemical compounds, and the researchers found that mosquitoes were most drawn to people whose skin produces high levels of carboxylic acids. Additionally, the researchers found that peoples’ attractiveness to mosquitoes remained steady over time, regardless of changes in diet or grooming habits. (Source)
The Arts & History
🎨🤖 Big Lebowski characters in the style of Grand Theft Auto art 🎳
These were made with the Midjourney generative AI.
(I feature more AI art than human art lately… That was a rapid phase change 🤔)
Source: boyerizm (there are more images in the series)