The Five Best Things: Jan 9, 2021

You will not believe the things Big Pasta is hiding

How is the thirteenth month of 2020 treating you?

I’ve added a call to action section today, where I solicit some civic engagement.

I also want to reiterate that there is a ton of hiring at Google across Engineering and Product roles. Please reach out if you are looking to make a move in 2021.

The Five Best Things

  1. Bucky Moore: Looking ahead to the future of computing and data infrastructure

    • Bucky Moore, a cloud computing focused investor at KleinerPerkins gives a fantastic overview of the state of the industry as well as his predictions for the future. Key insights include - data warehouses becoming more fully-featured by supporting bolted-on applications, the birth of many more cloud “native” companies, decentralized and automated (using natural language processing) data protection, and ML operations and infrastructure going from point solutions to end-to-end workflows - which may lead to consolidation since late majority adopters prefer “one-stop shops” for tools.

    • Bucky’s write up lines up very closely with my experiences in this field, but he’s able to put it in words better than I can!

  2. Techcrunch: Can artificial intelligence give elephants a winning edge?

    • This piece profiles ElephantEdge, a Fitbit for Elephants, which can run ML models using a methodology called TinyML. The project was hosted on a crowdsourcing platform called Hackster.io and the ML community was tasked with coming up with useful models. One model detects the presence of unauthenticated humans, another uses time series analysis to detect if the elephants are eating and moving as expected, and yet another detects if elephants wander out into cultivated farmland. There are plans to deploy this on 10 elephants by the end of 2021.

    • As a hardware/software co-design nerd and elephant lover, I applaud this effort and hope it can make a difference. TinyML applies ML to low power, small form-factor DIY style devices like Arduino, for applications in the Internet-of-Things space. It is programmed with an offshoot of TensorFlow called TensorFlow-Lite. This is very much in contrast to the very large natural language models that I’ve covered so far.

    Stanford Human-AI Center: Summary of AI Provisions from the National Defense Authorization Act 2021

    • The NDAA was passed by U.S Congress on Jan 1 (remember last week?!) and has several provisions for AI. This write up from Stanford HAI summarizes them. Some highlights -

      • A National AI initiatives coordinating body

      • A National Research Cloud set up by the NSF to provide subsidized resources to academia and non-profits

      • Several dedicated national AI research institutes

      • Establishment of frameworks for explainability, privacy, and transparency, as well as interoperable standards for training datasets, data management, and AI hardware by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

      • Requirements for ethical and responsible sourcing of AI by the DoD

      • An “Industries of the Future” council.

    • The NDAA is yet to receive congressional funding, so it is not yet clear how many of these provisions will see light of day. Dual-use (military and commercial) technologies provide a de-risked path to market for many technologies such as semiconductors, GPS and even frozen and shelf-stable foods like margarine.

  3. Portfolio Charts: OWN THE FINANCIAL FIELD WITH THE GLOBAL MARKET PORTFOLIO

    • Tyler from Portfolio charts provides advice on constructing a portfolio of diversified investments that capture the global financial market - i.e. including non-US equities and bonds. This portfolio consists of the following allocations -

      • 45% World Developed Stocks

      • 5% Emerging Market Stocks

      • 44% World Developed Intermediate Bonds

      • 4% REITs

      • 2% Gold

    • 2021 is upon us - have you rebalanced your 401(k) account? A combination of slowing US growth, near-zero bond returns in the Western world, and expansion of financial markets in the rest of the world makes a compelling case for incorporating a global perspective in one’s holdings.

  4. Rachel Handler at Grub Street: What the Hole Is Going On? The very real, totally bizarre bucatini shortage of 2020

    • Coinciding with the onset of the pandemic, there began a shortage of the Bucatini (like spaghetti, but with a hole in it) pasta shape. Although the rest of the pasta food supply chain caught up, this shape never recovered. In a months-long investigation, writer and foodie Rachel Handler uncovered many reasons, including a) it takes an extra step to manufacture and pasta-makers are prioritizing simpler pasta shapes for time-to-market reasons, b) people are resorting to using Bucatini in place of plastic straws to be “eco-friendly”, and c) the FDA deemed imported Bucatini was lacking sufficient iron levels - an effort spearheaded by US “Big Pasta” corps to hurt imports.

    • I’ve never eaten this shape of pasta and now have an intense desire to. Also, so glad the FDA devoted time to dunking on pasta instead of rolling out vaccines and therapeutics on time. Are we going to see Pasta tariffs in the near future?

Call to Action

  1. Liquibase, an Austin-based company is conducting a fundraiser for SAFE, a non-profit that protects victims of domestic abuse. Link here, please consider donating!

  2. Rapid Antigen testing is a really cheap (< $1/test) alternative to PCR testing that has somehow not gained traction in the US. Emily Oster and Michael Mina discuss more in this post. Cheap, widespread testing makes a lot of sense to me, and if you agree, please text “RAPID TESTS'' to 50409 aka ResistBot, which will send a letter to your local elected officials to dedicate funds for this.

Honorable Mentions

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