Happy spring forward eve in America, the night that brings terror to parents of young children.
Lots of activity around NFTs (non-fungible tokens) this week, with a digital image from artist Beeple selling for $69.3M in an auction conducted by Christie’s. A Clubhouse interview was conducted last night with the (pseudonymous) auction winners. A good primer on NFTs here, and I’ll plan to do a deep dive one of these days.
The Five Best Things
Continuing the thread I picked up last time, I want to highlight a couple of interesting AI democratization efforts
Eleuther.ai - Eleuther is an AI research collective that formed last year, a grassroots effort from some ML researchers to replicate open source versions of very large scale models such as GPT-3. Of course, in addition to the model, you also need data. So, as a part of this effort, they have also released an 800GB data set called “The Pile”. You can join the discord community and follow along here.
TeraPipe: Token-Level Pipeline Parallelism for Training Large-Scale Language Models TeraPipe is a method by which practitioners can speed up training time for the largest transformer-based models such as GPT-3 by 5x. It exploits the parallelism of transformers to perform finer-grained pipeline within a single training sequence. Speeding up training time of course means lower $ spend. Any efficiency gains here are force multipliers.
same.energy visual search engine
This is a search engine where you can upload a picture, and find similar pictures on the internet. It is created and maintained by Jacob Jackson, an OpenAI alum. The website is a bit unintuitive, but you start by uploading an image and see what turns up. Some results from uploading a stock picture of a dog, and an interior design picture below.
We believe that image search should be visual, using only a minimum of words. And we believe it should integrate a rich visual understanding, capturing the artistic style and overall mood of an image, not just the objects in it.
Playing around on this site is a wormhole - it’s a lot of fun finding similar pictures. I could see a range of use cases - from interior decoration, fashion design, art generation, animal breeding, etc. Vastly superior experience to Pinterest.
A compendium of recent semiconductor news -
President Biden ordered a broad review of the semiconductor supply chains, in preparation for economic incentives, for which there appears to be bipartisan support. The review was conducted due to pleas from multiple auto manufacturers, whose plants have had to stall due to lack of component chips. These supply chain lags will take years to work out.
It’s still hard to say what the Biden administration’s position on semiconductors and China will be. The most telling sign will be who is appointed to lead the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security, which controls the ‘entity list’. The entity list is essentially a blacklist of entities the United States will not allow business with; this was the tool with which Huawei was kicked out of the country by the Trump administration. The two contenders for this role have wildly differing views; a backward looking review of past financing activity involving Chinese entities is underway by CFIUS.
The Texas freeze and subsequent power and water outages a few weeks ago stalled operations at Samsung and NXP’s chip manufacturing plants in Austin. A month later and the plants are still not back up and running. Samsung is the largest corporate consumer of electricity and water in Austin, and may be seriously rethinking its future expansion plans - this will be an economic disaster for the city and state.
I read a few good pieces this week that resonated with me re: Women’s Day
WSJ: Biotech Star Checked Out Early From Career at Amgen - Profile of a former star exec at Biotech firm Amgen who retired at the age of 43 in 1998, when widely considered a future CEO contender. She had a premonition she would die young, and so she devoted the remainder of her life to environmental causes and science education, as well as spending time with her family. She died at the age of 65 last month. RIP.
On the flipside, this tribute to Sheryl Sandberg by a former direct reportee
Variety: Gloria Steinem on International Women’s Day: ‘We Just Need to Keep Going’ Short essay by Gloria Steinem for this women’s day. "
Change is slow. Like a tree, it grows from the bottom up, and we still have a long way to go. But we just need to keep going and to celebrate how far we’ve come. We also have fun doing it. Supporting each other and finding new ways to work is the source of day-to-day change, and also of joy and community.
NYT: I Met My Husband on the Maternity Ward Modern Love column this week has a hell of an ending.
This annual contest run by Science Magazine allows researchers to explain their thesis topics with interpretive dance. This year included a special prize for COVID-19 related research, the winning submission is phenomenal! So, so talented.
Heather Masson Forsythe, a graduate student at Oregon State University, won that category with an interpretive dance—performed solo on a beach, in the corridor outside her lab, and in the woods, among other locales—inspired by her thesis research on "Biochemical & Biophysical Studies of the COVID-19 Nucleocapsid Protein with RNA." Forsythe uses nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging to learn about one of the essential proteins encoded in the viral genome.
Nautilus: The Doctor Will Sniff You Now documents the work being done to use smell as a diagnostic tool in healthcare. I think we are overdue for wearables/devices based on our sense of taste and smell.
WSJ: China’s Tencent Becomes an Investment Powerhouse, Using Deals to Expand Its Empire I’ve covered a few times about Tencent being a fantastic company; this article also dives into the prolific venture arm of Tencent, which has invested in household names including Snapchat, Epic Games, Activision Blizzard, Riot Games, Ubisoft, and Discord.
NewStatesman: How K-pop fans are helping Thai protesters stay out of jail Sure, there was some news involving the British monarchy this week; there’s also been some very serious stuff happening in Thailand, where disaffected youth have been protesting against the Thai monarch for months. In Thai law, the monarch is akin to God, and there are very strict laws forbidding anti-royal activity. Protestors have been brutalized and jailed. K-pop fans (the same ones that supposedly messed up a Trump rally last year) have been anonymously bailing out Thai protestors.
Brookings: The genie will not return to the bottle: Understanding the pro-democracy protests in Myanmar You may have also read that the nascent democratic movement in Myanmar was snuffed out in a coup last month. This article is a good overview of the situation, and youth protestors are involved here as well.
Epsilon Theory: The Opposite of 2008 An ominous read that the Fed may be missing inflation happening in home prices, due to using rent prices as a proxy for home prices in inflation calculations. Due to the pandemic, people are fleeing apartments for homes, resulting in wide divergence in rent and home prices.
The Philadelphia Inquirer: ‘The Secret Apartment’ is the story of a Vietnam vet who claims to have lived in Veterans Stadium for years This story is wild and amazing. A real life phantom of the opera!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not represent my employer.