423: Lockheed Martin, Twitter's Hotel California, Tesla + Ford, Nvidia, Adobe, India & China, Jim Keller, Andrew Huberman and Peter Attia
"Judgement: heart and head work together"
But it’s in the nature of progress that it erases its tracks, and its champions fixate on the remaining injustices and forget how far we have come.
📈🔬👨🔬🧪🔭👷♂️🏗️👨🏻🔧🧰⚙️ This really good conversation between Jim O’Shaughnessy (💚 🥃) and Jason Crawford from Roots of Progress inspired both the theme for the featured quote and the accompanying digital painting in this edition:
We desperately need a better and wider appreciation of what progress has done for us AND a better understanding of how to foster it so that we can continue to benefit from its endless bounty.
It’s like that Louis CK bit about wifi on planes, except for our whole civilization.
🌶️ The ongoing Huy Fong Sriracha shortage is forcing me to experiment with alternatives.
So far, this is the most direct replacement that I’ve found. The main downside is that it costs about 3x more than Huy Fong, which sucks since I put that stuff on everything.
If you’re curious about what is causing the shortage, the official explanation is that the West Coast drought has affected jalapeño harvests. However, the unofficial version of the story is that the company allegedly screwed its main supplier and was left holding the bag… 😬
Remember kids, always play fair with your business partners and make it win-win!
💚 🥃 🕳️🐇 You can get 1-2 extra editions/week and support the project by becoming a paid sub.
Let’s explore more interesting stuff together!
Imagine: If you get just one good idea, discover one new hobby or favorite piece of media, or develop a deeper understanding of the world, it’ll be worth many times the modest cost:
🏦 💰 Liberty Capital 💳 💴
📺 Hours spent with digital media in the U.S. 📱💻
The data for 'other connected devices' includes game consoles. Mobile includes smartphones & tablets. All data includes usage at home and work for people 18+.
Mobile truly is gigantic!
The ‘second screen’ phenomenon means that many of these hours are likely to be in parallel with TV, which isn’t shown on this graph, but I’m sure you’ve seen surveys showing how many daily hours Americans watch TV on average:
From 2013-2017, adults in the 65 and older demographic spent the most time watching television, about 4.3 hours, while 25-34 year olds watched the least amount per day, just over 2 hours. Employed individuals, including full- and part-time, watched about 2.2 hours worth of television, while unemployed individuals watched about an hour and a half more of television, around 3.8 hours. Of individuals 65 and older, 80.2% were not employed, and this group watched about 4.5 hours of television per day.
🐦🕸️🔐 Social Media & Open Internet: From Win-Win to Zero-Sum, from Central Hub to Closed-System 😕
In relation to the rest of the open internet, social media has gone from win-win situation to zero-sum game.
At first, it was aligned with the open internet, and loving that there were lots of good things out there on the web that could be linked and highlighted — it was fodder for the timeline feed.
But today, they’re trying to keep everyone inside their walled garden so they can scroll through more ads, never leaving to read an article or watch a video somewhere else.
Social media went from the Google Search model (“Well help you find great stuff wherever it is!”) or the Grand Central Station (“You can travel to anywhere from here”) to the Hotel California model (“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave").
10-15 years ago, people used to have RSS readers where they would subscribe to websites. They’d check them — a bit like an email inbox — to see what was new, in search of interesting things.
RSS’ near extinction event was the combination of Larry Page killing Google Reader and Twitter and Facebook becoming more convenient sources of links to interesting articles (because they were pre-filtered and contextualized by people you followed).
But over time, Twitter and Facebook tweaked their algorithms to reduce engagement on any piece of content that links out. Social networks are increasingly turning into closed systems where ‘native content’ is given preference even if there’s better content elsewhere.
🔥 ‘The Complete Story of Lockheed Martin, Skunkworks, and the US's Top Secret 1960's Satellite Program’ 🔥
Two of my most enjoyed books in recent years have to do with military airplane design.
They are ‘Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War’ by Robert Coram and “Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed” by Ben Rich.
So how can this episode by friends-of-the-show Ben & David (💚 🥃) at Acquired not be lotsa fun?
I started it last night and finished it this morning, and it was a great one. I learned a bunch of new things, like how the early spy satellites dropped analog film canisters with built-in retro rockets from space for them to be caught by C-130s with hooks mid-air 🤯 or how the secret Lockheed division (not Skunk Works — another one!) working on missiles and spy satellites had 30,000 employees at a time when HP had 3000, and basically became the foundation of Silicon Valley and the first big buyer of semiconductors.
Or how about this line:
“The SR-71 Blackbird‘s first flight was closer to the Wright brothers than to today.”
After listening, I ordered two books: ‘Beyond the Horizons: The Story of Lockheed’ and ‘Beyond the Wild Blue: A History of the U.S. Air Force, 1947-1997’ by Walter Boyne.
🔌🚘Tesla partners with Ford for access to EV ‘Supercharger’ Network 🔋🔋🔋
Ford said it has cemented an agreement that will give Ford EV owners access to the Tesla Supercharger network starting in the spring of 2024.
This adds about 12,000 chargers on top of the existing non-Tesla network that was available to Ford’s EVs.
Ford said its EVs will also get an adapter to allow them to use the Superchargers. Starting in 2025, a connector developed by Tesla will be built into new Ford EVs, the company said. The Tesla North American Charging Standard (NACS) connector on Ford EVs fitted with a Combined Charging System (CCS) port will allow the vehicles to be used with Tesla V3 Superchargers.
This shows how serious they are.
A built-in connector isn’t something you want to change if you can avoid it…
🇮🇳 Do India & China have fewer people than we think? Why do we suck at forecasting population growth? 🤨
You’ve heard it, demography is destiny, etc.
Well, if it is, we better pay attention to it and make sure we know what’s going on.
Yi Fuxian, a “senior scientist in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison”, makes the case that the official UN stats are wrong.
On India, he writes:
In April, the United Nations estimated that India had overtaken China as the world’s most populous country. While the announcement received a great deal of media attention, India’s 2024 census will likely reveal that the UN’s projections have been vastly overestimated. [...]
India’s National Family Health Survey indicated a fertility rate of 1.99 in 2017-19, in contrast to the WPP’s estimate of 2.16. [...] India’s fertility rate may be as low as 1.6-1.7 in 2024, with its population ranging between 1.37 to 1.39 billion, compared to the 1.44 billion projected by the UN. [...]
absent a socioeconomic paradigm shift, it is likely that India’s fertility rate will drop below 1.2 by 2050, and its population will peak below 1.5 billion, rather than the 1.7 billion projected by the WPP.
On China: 🇨🇳
The WPP’s projections of Chinese demographic trends are even more exaggerated. For example, the 1992 WPP estimated that China’s population will reach 1.54 billion by 2025. While the 2022 report revised this figure down to 1.42 billion, the actual figure will likely be closer to 1.27 billion.
Likewise, the 1996 report projected that the Chinese population will increase to 1.52 billion by 2050, but the 2008 report revised this forecast to 1.42 billion, and the 2022 edition further reduced it to 1.31 billion. When it comes to 2100, the 2019 WPP projected a population of 1.06 billion, but the 2022 report adjusted this to 767 million.
Basically, we’re not very good at forecasting population, and we’re not very good at keeping track of it in real-time. What we do know is that fertility is dropping rapidly pretty much everywhere.
C’est pas génial comme situation…
💾 🎨 Adobe's transition from licenses to subscriptions
3 Types of Trust 🤝
I kinda liked this by Romeen Sheth:
There are 3 types of trust: Intent, Competence and Judgement
- Intent: heart is in the right place
- Competence: head is in the right place
- Judgement: heart and head work together
It’s a good compression of an idea that was already swirling around in my head, but not quite in that concise and clear a shape.
Jim Keller’s Tenstorrent partners with LG for…what?! 🤔
I don’t really get this one:
Canadian AI computer design startup Tenstorrent said on Tuesday it was partnering with South Korea's consumer electronics firm LG Electronics to build chips that power smart TVs, automotive products and data centers.
I mean, I get making chips for data centers, but TVs and automotive?
At this stage of the startup’s life, it seems like they should be laser-focused on their mission of making accelerators for large-scale AI models, which was what I understood them to do.
(they claim that they’re taking a more first-principle approach to the architecture than GPUs because they don’t have the gaming legacy, no need to draw triangles, etc.)
LG will initially use Tenstorrent's AI chip blueprint to design its own chips, but the partnership is more strategic, said David Bennett, Tenstorrent's chief customer officer.
"What we're looking at is also some of the technology that LG has developed. Could it not be something that we use either in our own products or potentially with other future customers."
I don’t know what this means. Is this a sign that Tenstorrent is in trouble, or am I missing something and does this make sense for them? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
🇨🇳🚔🤖 ‘China’s First ChatGPT Crime’
Our friends-of-the-show at Chinatalk report:
In what appears to be a first in China, someone has been detained for activities related to ChatGPT. Police in the northwestern Gansu province announced on May 7 that they have arrested a man surnamed Hong for “using artificial intelligence technology to concoct false and untrue information”… The man allegedly posted fake news surrounding a train crash to twenty-one Baidu accounts simultaneously. To bypass spam filters, he asked ChatGPT to write slightly different versions of the same story [...]
Hong is actually being charged for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” (PQPT), the classic catch-all crime frequently applied to anyone the regime sees as a nuisance. Perhaps this charge is related to the fact that ChatGPT in China is accessible only with a VPN, which means that Hong has definitely bypassed the Great Firewall
Picking quarrels and provoking trouble!
That’s definitely a crime I could be accused of once in a while 😬
🧪🔬 Liberty Labs 🧬 🔭
⚛️ How much do you know about nuclear waste? ⚛️
Most people don’t know that most of the energy (90-95%+) is still in there and that we know how to get it out. It’s actually a resource that could power our civilization for hundreds of years if we went to a closed fuel cycle and build some fast reactors.
Not that we need to do this because the waste is small and manageable and uranium is relatively cheap and plentiful, but if we wanted to, we could, and future generations may very well thank us for keeping the stuff around and not burying it too deep.
🇹🇼 Nvidia unveils bonkers new AI supercomputer 🔥
At the Computex conference in Taiwan, Nvidia showcased the DGX GH200 supercomputer that they built specifically for AI model training.
The specs are pretty insane, and I bet it almost runs Crysis with everything maxed out:
The NVIDIA DGX GH200’s massive shared memory space uses NVLink interconnect technology with the NVLink Switch System to combine 256 GH200 superchips, allowing them to perform as a single GPU. This provides 1 exaflop of performance and 144 terabytes of shared memory — nearly 500x more memory than the previous generation NVIDIA DGX A100, which was introduced in 2020. [...]
DGX GH200 is the first supercomputer to pair Grace Hopper Superchips with the NVIDIA NVLink Switch System, a new interconnect that enables all GPUs in a DGX GH200 system to work together as one. [...] The DGX GH200 architecture provides 48x more NVLink bandwidth than the previous generation [...]
Who’s going to take this baby for a spin first?
Google Cloud, Meta and Microsoft are among the first expected to gain access to the DGX GH200 to explore its capabilities for generative AI workloads.
Nvidia will also provide the blueprints so that hyperscalers can build their own.
👀🧠 Andrew Huberman and Peter Attia 🥼🩺
This is a pretty self-recommending conversation between two great communicators of biomedical and scientific information, two curious dudes, and two driven individuals who are always looking to learn and improve.
Lots of good stuff in there:
The discussion about the importance of vision in the human brain and how some animals seem to use smell was very interesting. It was pretty mind-blowing to hear how they can detect directionality and distance from smell, even possibly using both nostrils to have a kind of “stereoscopic” smell ability 🤯
💧 Can water ‘solve a maze’? 🤔
An interesting experiment to try to replicate in the real world something that was tried in a digital simulation.
It’s a good reminder that digital simulations aren’t always taking into account every variable, plus it’s a fun project and looks cool:
🎨 🎭 Liberty Studio 👩🎨 🎥
👽 Aliens: The Musical 👽
Sadly, it’s not a real thing!
I’d pay a good sum to watch that show. I can already picture the last scene and how they could turn that iconic line into a song chorus… 🤔
If you’re on a phone, you really have to tap on the image above and zoom in to see the details, it’s amazing!
That xenomorph belting out a tune and the dancing line of aliens doing jazz hands… Priceless!
🎸🎃 Interview: Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins & Pro Wrestling 🤼♂️
I was surprised by how good this extended interview is.
As a teen, I used to listen to a lot of Smashing Pumpkins — it’s melodramatic and rather adolescent music, so it hit my immature brain in just the right way — but I haven’t listened to them much in recent years, and I don’t think I had ever really seen Billy Corgan speak, especially not when he wasn’t ‘in-character’.
It turns out, he’s smart and articulate and has a lot to say about the music business, the ups & downs of the rockstar lifestyle, and writing and recording music.
I still think Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie are powerful albums, and I admire the ambition behind them. The way they turned jammy, indie shoegaze My Bloody Valentine aesthetics into arena art-rock while remaining pretty quirky is pretty cool.
Even if they don’t quite reach me the way they used to, there’s a pretty cohesive vision there, and nostalgia is a real thing — music from your youth can transport you back!
I’ve also learned a lot about music since I was a kid, and I can appreciate how well they used the studio. These old albums sound quite good, and there’s a lot of creativity in arrangements and use of effects and dynamics.
Something else I appreciate more today than I did at the time is just how excellent Jimmy Chamberlin’s drumming is. The dude’s a beast. 🥁