P.S. You Should Know... Issue #302
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i’ve been thinking
Still can’t stop thinking about AI.
I finally made the time to review the State of AI Report 2022 by Nathan Benaich and Ian Hogarth. The authors have deep domain expertise and years of experience (their first report dates back to 2018). There’s a ton of technical language (model names, fancy ML terms, acronyms), but I think it’s worth flipping through. Only with the benefit of hindsight will we know what the juiciest bits really are. Here are some that I found compelling:
We’re seeing a huge movement toward open source models, away from the few closed source ones of recent years. This is no surprise, as the past year has been a whirlwind of announcements and public excitement.
There’s also a huge diffusion of talent. “Once considered untouchable, talent from Tier 1 AI labs is breaking loose and becoming entrepreneurial. Alums are working on AGI, AI safety, biotech, fintech, energy, dev tools and robotics.”
The models are here and their applications are real. Two examples: “AI coding assistants are deployed fast, with early signs of developer productivity gains” and “AI-first drug discovery companies have 18 assets in clinical trials, up from 0 in 2020”
Emergence! “[Many large language model] capabilities emerge unpredictably when models reach a critical size.” This is hugely interesting to me because of the relationship between emergence, complexity and the origins of life. Recommended: Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos.
A day or two before reading this report, I was talking with a friend who is trying to remain sanguine on the space in case the hype overshadows the utility. It’s a fair position, seeing as how that happens all the time. But now I am even more convinced that we’ve hit an inflection point with the utility of the AI models. Keep watching!
Breakout, a PDF experiment. “Like many of you, I always thought of PDF as basically a benign format, where the author lays out some text and graphics, and then the PDF sits in front of the reader and doesn’t do anything.” That’s not the case, as this particular PDF shows. Open in Chrome on desktop for best results. ~ learn more
The Overfitted Brain Hypothesis. “The OBH posits that dreams are an evolved mechanism to avoid a phenomenon called overfitting. Overfitting, a statistical concept, is when a neural network learns overly specifically, and therefore stops being generalizable. It learns too well.” ~ learn more
Finally, an organism that eats viruses. “For the first time, the team’s lab experiments have also shown that a virus-only diet, which the team calls “virovory,” is enough to fuel the physiological growth and even population growth of an organism.” ~ learn more
Zilker park vision plan. There’s a big park right next to downtown Austin called Zilker. The city has been soliciting community input for two years to create a vision for its restoration and future development. This is a video recap of the current plan. ~ learn more
tech, startups, internet
Interview with Sam Altman of OpenAI. From How I Built This: “Sam talks about his journey from Stanford dropout and teenage entrepreneur to president of the legendary startup incubator Y Combinator and co-founder of the nonprofit OpenAI. Plus, Sam shares his hopes and fears for the future of AI and how his company is working to ensure it ultimately benefits all of humanity.” ~ learn more
What happens when most "people" you interact with on the internet are fake? Applying the analogy of the automobile Market for Lemons, Lars Doucet speculates about what happens after, “the internet gets clogged with piles of semi-intelligent spam, breaking the default assumption that the "person" you're talking to is human.” ~ learn more
The Cynefin framework. This framework offers five “domains” from which decisions are made: complex, complicated, chaotic, clear and confusion. In the clear context, for example, you want to apply best practices. But in the chaotic, where cause and effect are unclear, “Action—any action—is the first and only way to respond appropriately.” ~ learn more
Alan Mulally and the power of working together. Alan is the CEO who turned around Ford just in time for the Great Recession. In this video he tells the story of how he got it done. He applies a framework that he’s taken from team to team called Working Together. ~ learn more
under the microscope
How your breath affects your brain. “The rhythm of respiration influences a wide range of behaviors, as well as cognition and emotion. Neuroscientists are piecing together how it all works.” ~ learn more
Watching Alzheimer’s in action. “A look inside the brains of engineered mice suggests therapies might need to target two key proteins — tau and amyloid-beta — at the same time.” This is from 2019. I’m not sure where this idea has led researchers. ~ learn more
Repurposed acne drug reverses hand osteoarthritis in animal models. “In animal models, the team was able to show that the drug can prevent progression of the disease, with work now underway in human patients to ascertain its potential as a new clinical therapy.” ~ learn more
Walgreens overinvested in security, underinvested in compliance. “In the quarter ending November 30, Walgreens posted a $3.7 billion loss over the hefty settlement reached in November for mishandling prescriptions for opioid medications that has fueled an addiction crisis in the country.” ~ learn more
thoughts of food
Let’s learn about the U.S. pine nut business. “A century ago, the pine nut was a major agricultural product of the American Southwest. … Today, American pine nuts (also called piñon or pinyon) are rarely found growing outside the Southwest. And even there, they can be a challenge to locate.“ ~ learn more
on the blockchain
The beginnings and history of NFTs. “It all started with the first NFT ever created, called Quantum, which was minted by Kevin McCoy on Namecoin in 2014. But several other NFTs were launched on pre-Ethereum blockchains over the following years — for example, Spells of Genesis launched in 2015, and stands as the first-ever blockchain-based game.” ~ learn more
Will crypto + AI eat the world? “In the (near) future 100,000,000s of devices will run open source programs on shared data/models the same way they run any other app. Any RAM / Memory anywhere with internet making (small) casual continuous profit from letting itself be used for anonymous computation.” ~ learn more
Tokens as CAC: Uniswap. From Tom Tunguz: “In 2021, I estimated that airdrops were 4-7x as expensive as spending venture dollars on sales & marketing. This second analysis shows that Uniswap’s token launch falls within those bounds.” ~ learn more
profiles of people
Tim Urban. “An interview with Tim Urban, the creator of Wait But Why, perhaps the most obsession-generating website on the internet, on what makes him tick.” ~ learn more