advice that works, world war 3 & capitalist AIs
CC#49 - Building the Unmeasurable, Sugar Substitutes & Creative Solitude
Hey there and welcome to ✨ CuratedCuriosity - a bi-weekly newsletter delivering inspiration from all over the internet to the notoriously curious.
Things I Enjoyed Reading.
Contrary to the author I am not a big fan of advice posts (I dislike that they are often written in a way that the author comes across as ‘all-knowing’) but in this one - at least for me - a lot things rang true. I found it to be a good ‘reinforcement’ of some habits/routines I aspire to integrate more into my (work-)life.
Most people’s mental models of energy are flawed: they think there’s a ‘tank’ of energy that gets depleted as you spend it. This may be roughly true for physical energy, but mental energy is different: spending mental energy on things that you consider productive or important gives you more mental energy for other things: a positive feedback loop. On the other hand, procrastinating, spending all day scrolling Twitter, or staying in bed all day reduces the amount of energy you have to spend; this means you are less likely to get anything done. (…)
The way to get out of these energy ruts is to just do something really small (empty the dishwasher! Write one sentence!) and get that tiny reward of accomplishment. This generates a little bit more energy. Use that spark to get something slightly bigger done, and so on.
A game-theory based analysis of what it might mean for the world if China invades Taiwan. While there is a high uncertainty attached to the predictions made here, its a scary yet enlightening read.
This is not a pleasant thing to have to write a post about. A decade ago, when I started blogging, I didn’t expect to be writing posts about the imminent possibility of World War 3. But, here we are. Top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Admiral Michael Gilday, have been saying recently that China could invade Taiwan within the next couple of years. I have no way of assessing how accurate their predictions are, but China’s recent 20th Party Congress has certainly featured more bellicose language toward Taiwan. And the long-term slowdown in China’s economic growth means that the value of waiting to conquer Taiwan — of “hide your strength and bide your time”, to use Deng’s phrase — has fallen, which is probably why Xi Jinping has been shifting the CCP’s goals from economic growth to “security”.
So this is certainly worth thinking about.
While I am a big fan of quantifying things, there is only so much one can measure. This article points out how these ‘measurement gaps’ can create opportunities for startups (or innovation more generally).
Engineers and data scientists can’t do anything with “this makes people feel warm and fuzzy”. They can do a lot with “this feature improves metric X by 5% week-over-week”. Figuring out the connection between the two is often the art and science of product management.
This is where opportunities arise for startups and insurgents.
These metrics never really capture the underlying human emotion or behavior they are trying to measure. To make things more interesting, they almost always create secondary behavior which makes the metric go up but in a way the system designers didn’t anticipate or want.
Companies know this of course, they’re not dummies . They just don’t have better options. At scale, you often have to settle for things you can measure/optimize or monetize. You also have to settle for metric that optimize for the short term - that’s what drives quarterly earnings or the competitive dynamics or product iteration loop at the moment. It’s just the best you can do and is often, good enough.
But you, as an outsider, you can do better. If you can figure out this this blind spot , you can build something that captures a space that the existing incumbent can’t go after easily.
Food for Thought.
📊 What happens if you give 73 research teams a data set and the task to test whether more immigration will reduce public support for government provision of social policies? You’ll end up with a huge variation of estimated effects. One of the findings that makes me kind of doubt the value in my day to day work…
🧠 Not that I would be incredibly surprised about this, but I still think its quite mind-boggling (and thought provoking) to see what the combination of state-of-the-art-AI and capitalism can produce - such as e.g. a student making money by ghostwriting essays for his friends using AI or people selling whole AI generated books over Amazon.
🍭 While all kinds of sugar substitutes are used heavily these days, we know stunningly little about their effects on our long-term health. A new study showed that the consumption of different alternative sweeteners alters the gut flora which in turn is again something we know where little about with regards to health effects.
🎭 How do people in different occupations feel at work? According to the American Time Use Survey, jobs in personal care and construction are the ones with low stress and sadness but high happiness and meaningfulness.
🧐 While collaboration is certainly often important in a work context, its also a buzzword. Everyone seems to want more and more of it. However, sometimes people might actually need some more alone-time doing mundane things to be creative.
📑 And some more impressive AI stuff - this app lets you upload scientific papers, highlight parts you don’t understand and subsequently tries to explain them to you. Have only tried with a few examples so far, but seems working quite alright. Curious to see where this could lead.
Busy times but it feels good. Stuff is getting done and will hopefully result in some interesting outputs.
Currently thinking a lot about open science, meta science, science of science… - the longer I am part of this system the more I get the impression that there is so much that could be improved. For that matter I also curated some content on the Future of Science for the Startupy Community.