425: The Apple Edition: Thoughts on Vision Pro Headset, Josh Waitzkin, Wayne Gretzky, TSMC, Long-Term Investing, and Smoke Curtains
"Many drownings could be avoided"
Everyone thinks they've won the Magical Belief Lottery.
Everyone thinks they more or less have a handle on things, that they, as opposed to the billions who disagree with them, have somehow lucked into the one true belief system.
—R. Scott Bakker, Neuropath
🔥🔥🔥🔥👩🚒👨🚒🚒 It’s a bit hard to concentrate as I’m writing this. My eyes are stinging and I’m wearing a KN95 mask indoors because my lungs aren’t enjoying this one bit 🫁
Forest fires up north are sending smoke all the way down here, and my city is right in the center of that big dark red blob on the map, hitting 11 out of 11 on the air quality index scale. (a truly Spinal Tap scale! 🤘)
Both my parents are originally from up there, near where the fires are, and I still have a lot of extended family in the area. I hope things won’t get out of control and that the firefighters who are working hard to keep things contained will be safe and that Mother Nature will lend a helping hand soon.
I saw a bunch of videos of Canadair ‘water bombers’ filling up on lakes between boats and doing fancy flying to go drop their payloads. It’s intense, and I suspect these pilots are flying long hours and doing countless high-precision runs. Much respect! ✊
🏊♂️🏊♀️🏖️🤽♂️🏄🚑 Swimming season has arrived! Unfortunately, this also means it’s drowning season. ☠️
But there is something we can do about it. Many drownings can be avoided if only more people know what to look for. 👀
TV and films don’t show realistic drownings because they aren’t visually dramatic, but that has trained us to look for the wrong things, like someone who’s thrashing around in the water, screaming for help, going under and resurfacing multiple times, etc.
However, this is not what most drownings look like, which is why many children drown within a few feet of their parents and nobody notices anything.
I strongly encourage you to read this article about what real drownings look like, it may help you save someone’s life:
Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.
Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.”
Some things to look out for:
Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:
Head low in the water, mouth at water level
Head tilted back with mouth open
Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
Hair over forehead or eyes
Not using legs—vertical
Hyperventilating or gasping
Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
Trying to roll over on the back
Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder
This is important. It could save the life of a loved one!
💚 🥃 🕳️🐇 You can get 1-2 extra editions/week and support the project by becoming a paid sub.
This way we can explore more interesting stuff together!
Imagine this: 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 💳 💴
🍎🤔 My Thoughts on Apple’s ‘Vision Pro’ AR/VR Headset + WWDC 2023 🥽🔥
ONE MORE THING!
For you youngsters, “one more thing” is a Steve Jobs reference.
He used to say that before unveiling a new product at the very end of a presentation (you never do that at the beginning, or people won’t pay attention to the regular announcements).
My first question after looking at the Vision Pro hardware and the demo of the software is:
Is Meta’s Reality Labs finding itself where Blackerry’s R&D lab found itself in 2007?
I’m not saying that’s fair since both companies have different approaches and business models, but the fact that it wasn’t fair to RIM (now known as Blackberry even though they don’t really make Blackberries anymore) or pre-2007 Android didn’t really matter. They still had to throw a lot of their plans in the garbage and start again.
If you look at Android phones pre-iPhone and post-iPhone, the influence is major. There’s a famous case from those early years where a Samsung employee couldn’t tell an iPhone apart from a Samsung clone in court.
Will Meta move in the direction of what Apple is doing with Vision Pro?
I wouldn’t be surprised, though their different business models probably mean that Meta keeps making lower-end devices because they benefit most from volume to feed the social network and advertising sides of the business. All Apple cares about is owning the premium slice of the market.
Apple seems to have shown that the best way to do AR is actually to simulate it inside of a VR headset, rather than try to project on top of a see-through surface. I wouldn’t be surprised if this became the norm for almost all headsets in the mid-term, which makes the “AR or VR” question moot since with this hybrid approach, you can do both.
This is the seed of a Star Trek Holodeck model of XR.
Pricing at $3500 can seem expensive at first, but I think it makes sense in context.
The amount of technology they had to invent for this is pretty incredible.
Two 4K+ super-high DPI micro-LED screens that are likely to refresh at least at 120Hz if not more + an M2 SoC + a new R1 SoC that can process the whole real-time high-resolution video pipeline in less than 12 milliseconds + tons of high-rez cameras and sensors like LiDAR + very precise eye-tracking for UI and foveated rendering + iris biometrics security + a new OS and lots of new hardware and software (they mention “5000 patents filed during development”)...
In fact, that eye-tracking is more clever than it may seem according to someone who claims to have worked on it at Apple:
One of the coolest results involved predicting a user was going to click on something before they actually did. That was a ton of work and something I’m proud of. Your pupil reacts before you click in part because you expect something will happen after you click. So you can create biofeedback with a user's brain by monitoring their eye behavior, and redesigning the UI in real time to create more of this anticipatory pupil response. It’s a crude brain computer interface via the eyes, but very cool. And I’d take that over invasive brain surgery any day.
A non-invasive brain-computer interface! 👀🧠
So taking all this advanced tech into consideration, it’s hard to imagine it being much cheaper as a v1.0. In fact, I'm not sure if Apple is making its usual margins on it.
Showing the wearer’s eyes on the outside shows that Apple is still the best at creating intuitive human interfaces.
This isn’t as easy as it looks, because people don’t always look at you head-on, and eye contact is very precise, so they have to adjust the angle of the eyes depending on where you look from — basically a kind of holographic 3D display on the front of the device!
There’s a creepy factor/uncanny valley, but I suspect it’ll get better over time, and it’s still better than not having an easy way for people to know where the wearer is looking, or that they can see them.
If people feel like the Vision Pro is comparable to a Pro laptop in terms of utility, I wouldn't be surprised to see prices remain in the $1500-2000 range for a while, even for the non-Pro version. They aren’t trying to compete with $400 headsets.
Clearly, they’d rather create a ‘halo’ product that is good enough to make people *really* want it, even if they can’t afford it right away. That’ll come over time. The name ‘Vision Pro’ implies that a non-pro version is coming (the Vision Air?).
The iPhone was considered very expensive when it first launched, but it showed what was possible (people called it the “Jesus phone” at the time) and generated a lot of pent-up demand for subsequent models. People had to adjust to the fact that this “phone” was a computer and shouldn’t be compared to past phones.
Remember, Apple only ever wants to own the top end of the market, they're not a social network with a horizontal ad model, so it’s fine for them if their products are not for everyone.
I suspect the initial Vision Pro will be subsidized by some employers for artists, designers, and engineers doing lots of 3D modeling work, and over time it’ll trickle into more regular people’s homes.
The real test will be how it actually works and feels in real life. Demos in ideal conditions can only tell you so much. (at first, I thought the demo was simulated, but Marco Arment from ATP who was at the event said that he has “on good authority” that everything we saw from the point of view of the Vision Pro wearer was captured on the hardware and was not simulated. Impressive if true, but I wish Apple would confirm it)
I'm looking forward to trying it for myself, but so far reports from those who tried it are rather positive.
Friend-of-the-show Ben Thompson (💚 🥃) called the experience “extraordinary” and said that it was “far better than I expected, and I had high expectations.” Other tech journalists seem to generally agree.
🍎 Other stuff: Mac Pro + AirPods + iOS Keyboard 🤔
I’m glad that the new Mac Pro exists, but it’s a bit of a disappointment.
By transitioning it to Apple Silicon, they lost the ability to expand RAM or GPUs, which makes it only better than the M2 Ultra Mac Studio for a fairly small segment of the market (ie. you need non-GPU expansion cards).
I suspect they originally wanted to do more with it, but the market is simply too small to justify the huge expense of doing fancy stuff like sticking 2 Ultra chips together on the same die for an insane number of CPU, GPU, and Neural engine cores, all connected directly with the unified RAM pool — that’d be insane!
It would also have required more investment to create a way to interface with 3rd party external GPUs (along with the on-die GPUs) or to have a tiered system for add-on RAM.
If the Mac Pro sold a lot of units, maybe they would’ve done it, but alas…
They announced some software improvements to AirPods and the iOS Keyboard that I’m excited about!
Better adaptive transparency and noise cancellation for AirPods is going to be a very nice ‘quality of life’ improvement and make these great products even better.
And the keyboard stuff… Hallelujah!
I wrote a few times about how bad the iOS keyboard is, including when doing swipe-typing, which is my main input method.
They claim that iOS 17 will have better autocorrect and typing accuracy thanks to a LLM and better voice dictation thanks to a “transformer-based” model. Apple was very careful never to say “AI”, which is nice counter-positioning to everyone else in the industry who can’t shut up about it for 2 seconds.
These improvements aren’t making headlines, but they’ll make life better for hundreds of millions of people who use them every day. While not as sexy as new products, this is what makes the ecosystem desirable. Incremental improvement and polish year after year.
At the end of the day, the biggest impact often comes from better cameras, longer battery life, faster processors, better input methods, nicer screens, more convenient security biometrics, etc. Boring but important!
🤕 Josh Waitzkin on recovering from that first mistake 🏆
I love this line from Waitzkin’s ‘The Art of Learning’ (an excellent book, I recommend it):
One idea I taught was the importance of regaining presence and clarity of mind after making a serious error. This is a hard lesson for all competitors and performers. The first mistake rarely proves disastrous, but the downward spiral of the second, third, and fourth error creates a devastating chain reaction.
It’s such an important and underrated skill.
We all make mistakes, but two people making the exact same mistake will end up in very different places depending on how they respond to it — and that’s a mental game.
If you pick yourself up and can quickly regain your composure and get back in a flow state, the mistake may not matter much. But if you go on tilt or give up or are distracted by it, that first mistake can have a huge negative impact…
🏒⛸️ 🥅 Great anecdote on how Wayne Gretzky figured out his niche ✍️
I love to learn the process of how people figure things out and learn:
When he was 14 years old, Wayne Gretzky moved from a small town in Canada to the mecca of hockey, Toronto. He was undersized and after his first practice, his coach pulled him aside.
“When you go home tonight,” the coach told Gretzky, “the Leafs are playing the Philadelphia Flyers—watch Bobby Clarke play.” Clarke was an undersized player on the Flyers who went on to be inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame. “And I studied him and I studied him and I studied him,” Gretzky said. “I would take out a piece of paper and draw a rink and then without looking at the paper, I’d watch the hockey game on TV, and I would take my pen and I’d follow the puck.” When Clarke got off the ice, Gretzky would look down at the paper and look for patterns. He observed that Clarke “played the game out of the corners, not so much in front of the net.”
The paper method shows that it doesn’t have to be super-sophisticated, or something that others couldn’t have done.
But you have to do it!
Most people won’t even try!
Gretzky immersed himself in Clarke’s style and when on the ice himself, “I started playing out of the corner and from behind the net…And I started using the net as a decoy. Consequently, I wasn’t standing in front of the net, getting knocked over, and being on my keister the whole time.”
Consequently, Gretzky went on to set 61 NHL records—many of which he still holds—including most career regular season goals (894), assists (1,963), and points (2,857).
🇹🇼🤝🇺🇸 TSMC having difficulty hiring 4,500 workers for Arizona fabs 🐜
On the Glassdoor profile of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, or TSMC—the world’s biggest manufacturer of semiconductor chips—current and former U.S. employees swap messages about grueling working conditions. “People… slept in the office for a month straight,” an engineer wrote in August. “Twelve-hour days are standard, weekend shifts are common. I cannot stress… how brutal the work-life balance is here.” “TSMC is about obedience [and is] not ready for America,” another engineer wrote in January.
TSMC’s U.S. operations have earned a 27% approval rating on Glassdoor from 91 reviews—meaning that less than a third of its reviewers would encourage others to work there. Intel, one of TSMC’s main rivals, has an 85% approval rating, albeit from tens of thousands more reviews.
It will be interesting to see how this culture clash is resolved, and whether the US semiconductor revival will turn out even more difficult and expensive than expected by the politicians and TSMC execs who were only looking at spreadsheets and not at “soft” things like cultural differences.
Of course, the company claims that it provides “a balanced work/life for employees” and it has increased staff salaries by 20% in 2021, but will they need to do more in the US?
🕰️ Holding period of stocks over time measured in years 📉
This chart (and others like it) are pretty classic, anyone learning about investing eventually runs across them.
Of course, reality is never quite that simple and there are many factors that can influence the average holding period for stocks. A big one is friction and cost of transaction.
Looking at the graph, I also wonder what is the median vs the mean? Who’s included in the sample are things skewed by HFT? etc.
But whatever the reasons, long-term holding is fairly rare.
h/t friend-of-the-show Leandro
🧪🔬 Liberty Labs 🧬 🔭
1920s Aerial Smoke Curtains 😲
h/t Joseph Walker
🇯🇵 ‘Japan Gas Imports Fall to Two-Decade Low’ ⚛️
Thank you nuclear power! You can see imports go up after 2011, and now hopefully keep going back down more over time...
🎨 🎭 Liberty Studio 👩🎨 🎥
🙌 Respect the Work 👩🎨
I like this anecdote from the book ‘Jony Ive’ by Leander Kahney:
In the classroom at Newcastle, Jony also encountered individual styles that influenced him. In his first year he took a sculpting class. The professor was allergic to plaster dust and had to wear a mask and rubber gloves, but taught the class week after week. Jony was impressed by the instructor’s dedication, but, even more, by the manner in which the professor treated the student sculptures. He took an almost reverential approach to their creations. He would carefully clear all the dust off the students’ sculptures before talking about them—even if the work was terrible.
“There was something about respecting the work,” Jony said, “the idea that actually it was important—and if you didn’t take the time to do it, why should anybody else?”