A mix of long and short reads today.
I’m likely to post every other week going forward, as work has ramped up a bit. When work is so much fun, you work with amazing people, who are firing on all cylinders, you don’t realize the hours you’re putting in! ☺
Come join us! There has never been a better time to be in our industry 👇
The Five Best Things
Nvidia held its flagship GTC conference this week; the biggest announcement was about the custom developed ARM core that finally allows Nvidia to own the whole motherboard and push the envelope even further when it comes to performance on AI and other workloads.
More fun for me was reading the investor day deck that flew under the radar a little bit, but made me post this -
You rarely see an investor presentation articulate the impact of a company’s strategy well, and also being so upfront about the business metrics.
Cade Metz, Wired.com: The Secret Auction That Set Off the Race for AI Supremacy
Byline: How the shape of deep learning—and the fate of the tech industry—went up for sale in Harrah's Room 731, on the shores of Lake Tahoe.
A short, gripping read about the genesis of the arms race (for data, ML model sizes, money, talent - however you like to think about it) in deep learning. Geoff Hinton, Professor at the University of Toronto and his student Alex Krizhevsky showed how promising deep learning techniques can be in 2012 by winning the ImageNet competition (using Nvidia GPUs). This kicked off a bidding war among the usual suspects of the tech industry to hire him, and allowed Baidu to emerge as a serious contender in ML.
Sam Altman, Moore’s Law For Everything
Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI and previous CEO of venerated tech industry incubator YCombinator penned this essay a few weeks ago, putting forth his views on the socioeconomic changes about to be unleashed by large scale machine learning, how society is unprepared for this, and ideas on how we can adapt quickly.
The crux of his proposal for prosperity is below.
We could do something called the American Equity Fund. The American Equity Fund would be capitalized by taxing companies above a certain valuation 2.5% of their market value each year, payable in shares transferred to the fund, and by taxing 2.5% of the value of all privately-held land, payable in dollars.
All citizens over 18 would get an annual distribution, in dollars and company shares, into their accounts. People would be entrusted to use the money however they needed or wanted—for better education, healthcare, housing, starting a company, whatever. Rising costs in government-funded industries would face real pressure as more people chose their own services in a competitive marketplace.
Sam thinks, by his math, every American adult would get an yearly $13,500 “AI dividend” in a decade. Personally, I think his proposal which involves taxing company equity, ignores inflation, legislative hurdles, lobbying, demographic trends, immigration and the fact that most companies today have significant international presence. But the spirit of creative solutioning should be applauded.
Jamin Ball: A Look Back at Q4 '20 Public Cloud Earnings
Jamin, a partner at Altimeter Capital covers trends and insights from last quarter’s earnings of publicly listed Cloud companies. This is one the best written articles on how to analyze SaaS (software as a service) businesses - both individually and in aggregate. If you’re interested in following this segment of the market, Jamin’s substack is a must-read. Two high level takeaways -
A great spotlight on Betsy Cohen, a 79-year old banker, and one of the earliest investors to understand the potential of SPACs in 2015. The 50-year baking, law and real estate titan, and grandmother of 9, has launched 9 SPACs so far. Amazing!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not represent my employer.
Lonely Planet: Cambodia in the time of Covid. Although the country did well in controlling the spread of the pandemic, it is suffering economically. 55% of Cambodia’s economy is tourism, in the last year that has fallen off a cliff. The usually full hotels at Angkor Wat are only 15% occupied, and visits to the temple are down nearly 100% YoY.
WSJ: Tencent’s Biggest Investor Cashes In on Pandemic Rally Spotlight on Prosus and Naspers, the South African internet holding company which has otherwise struggled, but made one notable early stage investment back in the day - Tencent. The value of Tencent has far outstripped that of Prosus and Naspers combined.
Jason Zweig: The Soul Of An Investor An old article about Jack Hurst, who retained his love for investing despite his ALS diagnosis. Very touching.
The best explanation of total return swaps and what happened at Archegos Capital management (hedge fund that lost $30B in a week and tanked a fwe bank and media stocks) was written by one of my Professors, Sandy Leeds - page 4 of last week’s economics news round up.
Howard Marks’ latest reflections on 2020 and preparing for the coming years in US-based equities. Short read and well worth your time.
SkinDeep: A fun notebook you can play around with to use ML and remove tattoos from a picture of someone’s body
A short thread on the highlights from MLSys 2021, do click on