The Five Best Things: Feb 20, 2021

Anyone got a Billion dollars to spare?

I hope folks who are based in Texas are on the recovery swing; many family members and friends went 4-5 days without power or water; the power crisis seems to have abated although water issues continue. Please consider donating via these resources:

a) How To Help Texans During The Winter Storm Crisis

b) Colette, Edison, Olivia GoFundMe

c) Rural Texas Relief Fund

The Five Best Things

  1. Next Platform: THE BILLION DOLLAR AI PROBLEM THAT JUST KEEPS SCALING

    • Bryan Catanzaro, VP of Applied Deep Learning Research at Nvidia predicts that companies will spend 1+ Billion dollars to train a single transformer-based language model in the next 5 years. This is due to the scalability and adaptability of these models to different problems, with the potential to generate multi-billion dollars worth of value. Application areas include speech and text analysis, image, text, speech and video generation, question-answering, translation etc.

    • There is some good back of the envelope math here - to train and host one of today’s large language models costs about $85M+ per year. 12Xing this in the near future does seem in the realm of reality. Continued improvements in the interconnects that connect multiple machines together, and model training methods (model, data, tensor parallelism) will be key.

    • Good primers on model and data parallelism by Tim Dettmers!

  2. WSJ: AI Emerges as Crucial Tool for Groups Seeking Justice for Syria War Crimes

    • The Syrian conflict is one of the most documented in history, of course due to the presence of smartphones and social media. Several ML techniques are being used to speed up dissecting war crimes and charging the guilty.

      • De-duplication: weeding out duplicated and unrelated images

      • Classification: grouping videos of the same incident

      • Object recognition: finding all artifacts using a specific weapon

      • optical character recognition: identifying official stamps, letterheads or signatures

    • The intention is to prove that the Syrian regime and its main ally, Russia, used internationally banned weapons during the conflict. The article has some neat interactive parts to it as well.

  3. Courtney Rubin: The Shocking Meltdown of Ample Hills — Brooklyn’s Hottest Ice Cream Company

    • The article covers the reasons why a beloved ice cream store in Brooklyn folded in 2020, despite having fans like Bob Iger (ex-CEO of Disney), Oprah, and Questlove (from the band Roots), a contract to serve all Disney movie sets, and raising $19M. It’s not pandemic related, as you might expect. The company went from hand-crafting ice cream to investing in a massive factory in a bad location, not hiring or retaining staff, aggressive expansion without real-estate due diligence, capital equipment shenanigans and making whimsical errors. The cherry on top (pun intended) was the decision to use square instead of traditional round pint cup packaging; corners of square pints melt faster, packaging breaks off easier, and they are harder to fill properly. In June 2020, Ample Hills sold its assets to Schmitt, an Oregon manufacturing company that makes laser scanners and sensors for propane tanks.  

    • Reading this article is like an MBA crash course, hitting on basic problems in operations, marketing, finance, human capital, growth hacking. It also highlights the pitfalls of leaning too heavily on one large customer, who may walk away and crater your business.

  4. Bruce Mehlman: Challenges & Choices in a Low-Trust World

    • These decks are really quick to flip through, but present deep insights and resources.

  5. Humans of New York: The story of the founders of D2C shoe company Atoms

Honorable Mentions

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not represent my employer.