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
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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.
Berthub.eu: Reverse Engineering the source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine For the computing inclined, this write up explains the vaccine with analogies to computing terms. For e.g. RNA is the volatile ‘working memory’ version of DNA. DNA is like the flash drive storage of biology.
NewYorker: Taking Back Our Privacy This is a profile of the CEO and founder of encrypted messaging app Signal, which is back in the news due to everything that happened this week.
OilPrice.com: Crude Oil Flow From Saudi Arabia To U.S. Falls To Zero You read that right. The move towards U.S energy independence is something Pres. Obama doesn’t get enough credit for.
Bloomberg: Hindsight Capital’s 2020 Was Great. Wasn’t Yours? An annual write up on hypothetical trades with the benefit of hindsight. A fun read to put investing in the year 2020 in perspective.
WSJ: Why the Amazon, JPMorgan, Berkshire Venture Collapsed: ‘Health Care Was Too Big a Problem’ Healthcare innovation in America continues to thwart even the smartest and well-capitalized. Among the reasons for failure: data sharing hurdles, bureaucratic boundaries across three large corps, and competing interests within and outside the companies. Still remember when stocks in the big healthcare companies dropped due to the launch announcement 3 years ago.
WSJ: China’s Economic Data: A Guide for the Dazed and Confused A good guide to deciphering economic data coming from China - rely on nominal growth vs real, and use employment subindexes of the purchasing manager’s indexes as a proxy.
JewishCurrents: My Mommy and Me Particularly relevant this week, a disorienting essay on the Instagram-influencer mommy culture and the lies it spreads to the gullible.
NYTimes: 52 places to visit Beautiful photo essay with short blurbs.
Came across this heartwarming Weird Al Yankovic story this week (see, Facebook isn’t all bad!)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not represent my employer.