Tippets #181: An AI Edition - Bill Gates, Tyler Cowan, explainers, and selfies
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Like most people, I have spent the better part of the last two years almost exclusively with a close group of family and friends. People I have known for years, with a deep understanding of their quirks, personalities, and histories. And while my job as a VC is very much about meeting new people, most conversations with new individuals have mainly been in small groups and have, over the last twenty-four months, predominantly been over Zoom…Half of me was excited to walk up and engage with this group of strangers, a significant milestone on the path back to normalcy. The other half? Exhausted at the idea of meeting this many new people.
I wrote the above paragraph a year ago in a blog post about rebuilding social stamina. At the time I was grappling with the challenge of socializing in person again as a natural extrovert attending a conference after years of pandemic-induced isolation having recently discovered my ‘inner introvert’.
The biggest questions I was contemplating at the time with were what the ‘new normal’ would look like, when ‘after COVID’ would arrive, and how long would it take to rebuild the ‘social muscles’ that clearly atrophied during lock down.
Having just returned from the same conference (shout out to the Social Leverage team for throwing yet another great Palooza!), I can confidently say two things:
First: my social stamina has been rebuilt. The best evidence of this is probably this picture of me on national television cheering on Northwestern basketball against UCLA in the NCAA tournament last month alongside a whole host of strangers…going to places with lots of people I don't know? ✅
Second: man, a lot can change in a year!
Persistent inflation led to the Federal Reserve raising rates faster than ever. Up went the interest rates, and out went the money that rained from the sky. The tightening in both the public and private markets led to layoffs across the board, particularly in tech. AI replaced crypto as the topic of conversation around boardrooms and dinner tables. Crazy weather systems prolonged the dark days of winter. Oh, a bank run happened for good measure, resulting in massive market volatility, threatening regional banks as a whole, and likely accelerating the economy’s drive toward recession.
Does anyone else feel like COVID times were simpler times?
One of my biggest realizations of late is that post-COVID, we don't just need to rebuild social stamina but stamina in general. The last few years have been a case study of the unpredictability of life. Our capacity to adapt and adjust to uncertainty and volatility while maintaining a positive and optimistic outlook will constantly be tested. We need to be able to build up resilience and endurance to face the various challenges that come our way, whether social, technological, or economic. And while that may always have been true - society has always had to adjust to change - the speed and consistency of change seems atypical relative to the recent past.
Economist Tyler Cowan said in a recent article, "Hardly anyone you know, including yourself, is prepared to live in actual “moving” history. It will panic many of us, disorient the rest of us, and cause great upheavals in our fortunes, both good and bad…But since we are not used to living in moving history, and indeed most of us are psychologically unable to truly imagine living in moving history, all these new AI developments pose a great conundrum. We don’t know how to respond psychologically, or for that matter substantively."
I tend to agree. Buckle up because we are sprinting through a marathon right now, and it’s going to get wilder from here.
Some more from me:
Drinks with a VC: Season 4, Episode 5, Rishi Taparia, Garuda Ventures
I recently joined an old friend, Vik Lakhwara, Co-founder of Hathi VC, and his co-host, Bree Hanson, Head of Business Development at Burkland Associates, on their podcast, “Drinks with a VC”. It was a conversation that touched on everything from what we look for when we partner with founders at Garuda Ventures to why my wife’s friends called me “Sir Texts A Lot” in college, and I had a great time! Thanks to Vik and Bree for having me.
Find the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or YouTube below!
Tippets from Around the Web:
The Age of AI Has Begun
Bill Gates’ seminal essay on AI. He, like basically anyone who has played with any of the technology of late, believes we are living through a technological revolution. He articulates why the greatest points of immediate influence will be across productivity enhancements, health care, and education. A must-read if you haven’t already!
I’m lucky to have been involved with the PC revolution and the Internet revolution. I’m just as excited about this moment. This new technology can help people everywhere improve their lives. At the same time, the world needs to establish the rules of the road so that any downsides of artificial intelligence are far outweighed by its benefits, and so that everyone can enjoy those benefits no matter where they live or how much money they have. The Age of AI is filled with opportunities and responsibilities.
Existential Risk, AI, and the Inevitable Turn in Human History
Another piece I have recently enjoyed on the more macro implications of AI, this time by economist Tyler Cowan (referenced in the opener). He starts with the following:
For my entire life, and a bit more, there have been two essential features of the basic landscape:
1. American hegemony over much of the world, and relative physical safety for Americans.
2. An absence of truly radical technological change.
He then goes on to more clearly than I have managed to, the ‘why’ behind the nagging sense of unease and unsettlement that seems to be simmering under the surface.
Hardly anyone you know, including yourself, is prepared to live in actual “moving” history. It will panic many of us, disorient the rest of us, and cause great upheavals in our fortunes, both good and bad…But since we are not used to living in moving history, and indeed most of us are psychologically unable to truly imagine living in moving history, all these new AI developments pose a great conundrum. We don’t know how to respond psychologically, or for that matter substantively.
Definite food for thought.
A Short History of Artificial Intelligence
I thought this piece by Anna Sofia-Lesiv, together with this from Srinath Sridhar, were good, digestible explainers on the history of AI and how we got here.
Time Period Selfies: Time traveler shows soldiers, warriors, and people from various time periods what a "selfie" is.
I thoroughly enjoyed this Reddit post of AI-generated images that a Time traveler would have captured from various periods. I can’t help but smile, despite knowing the images are not real. Some highlights below but click the link to see them all!
Quote I'm thinking about: “If something strikes me as interesting or beautiful, first I live that experience. Only afterward might I attempt to understand it.” - Rick Rubin
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