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Archived Posts for December 2022

25
Dec 22
Sun

Weekly Report: December 25, 2022

Observations

  • Merry Christmas! I hope you are enjoying a nice long holiday weekend with your friends and family. Just a short update this week. Next week I’m planning to do a Year In Review.
  • Sam Bankman-Fried is hosed. Earlier this week, he agreed to be extradited back to the States. Bail was set at $250M, which means that anyone who’s willing to post bail for him (i.e. his parents) will basically be bankrupted if he skips town. His co-founder Gary Wang and Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison both pleaded guilty to various criminal counts and are cooperating with authorities in their criminal and civil cases against SBF. More of his former associates are expected to flip. Hard to see how he doesn’t get put away for a long time.
  • A perpetrator claims to have obtained the data of 400+ million Twitter users through a vulnerability.

Reviews

  • Frozen: The Musical. We took our daughter to see this at the Orpheum (her first musical!). Frozen is a phenomenon and not easy source material to adapt for the stage, so I was curious to see how it would play out. The result is a musical that shines at moments, but otherwise lacks the dynamism of its animated compatriot. There are a variety of new songs that were created just for the musical (written by the original music writers), but none of them were memorable. It all felt like filler music, lacking any tunes that really catch. The performance of a new song called Hygge stuck in my mind, but I can’t recall the melody at all.

    The most authentic response was probably looking at how our daughter reacted. Like probably every other child (and parent) in the audience, she has watched Frozen dozens of times, and has made us play the soundtrack in the car at least several hundred times (I have the Spotify stats to back that up). Our daughter was completely enthralled with the major set pieces: Do you want to build a snowman?For the first time in foreverLove is an open door and, of course, Let it go. The way young Elsa and Anna were portrayed were a delight. But Frozenfront-loads all its big musical pieces, and as the second half dives deeper into a darker story, her attention started to wander. She seemed bored with the new songs and I wonder what was going through her mind when they replaced the cute rotund trolls with “hidden folk” — essentially wildlings in rags. I think they did the best that they could, but the movie is a tough act to follow!

    Trivia: Frozen is set in Norway, but the movie’s is loosely based around Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen (Snedronningen).

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The GOAT. Team trophies on left. Personal trophies on right.

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18
Dec 22
Sun

Weekly Report: December 18, 2022

Observations

  • Well that happened fast. Sam Bankman-Fried was arrested on Monday, the day after he said in a Twitter Space session, “I don’t think I’ll be arrested.” He’s been criminally indicted and slapped with a civil suit and he’s now being held in a nasty ass Bahamian prison awaiting extradition. Cluelessness or arrogance? How about both.
  • The World Cup is now over and what a final! It was a really enjoyable tournament with lots of memorable upsets (including, finally, one for Australia!) and a fairy tale ending for Argentina and Lionel Messi. Mbappe is only 23 and already has 12 world cup goals. Next time: The World Cup comes to North America!
  • Fantasy League final result: ended up squarely in the middle of pack, 7 out of 14. Some learnings:
    • It’s harder to get ahead in the late stages. People end up picking the same players and it’s clearer which players are in good form.
    • Have to keep on top of injuries in the late stages; it’s a long campaign and it takes its toll.
    • Making opinionated, defensive bets where you stack the defensive line with a single country is a high risk strategy, but it can work as a hail mary if you’re lagging.
  • Head-to-head betting final result: a big run during the early knockout stages put me deep in the black. Also, we have extra bets for penalty kicks and I ended up on the right side of all 5 of them (incidentally, that’s the most PKs in World Cup history).
Lower = better for me
  • Active week for financial data. The Fed raised rates by 50bps as the market expected, and Powell gave guidance that they are not done with rate rises (also expected). CPI came in at 7.1%, down from 7.7% last month, and under the 7.3% expected by the market. The market closed the week lower. Bitcoin has been relatively stable, but despite that, Coinbase stock has been smashed.
  • Scientists, for the first time, have created a net energy output from a nuclear fusion reaction. I’m not sure if it will happen in my lifetime — fusion research has been happening long since before I was born — but if they crack it and then make it economical, it’ll revolutionize the world and probably go a long way towards solving climate change.
  • Having a real Christmas tree in the house is pretty nice, but the hassle has always been way too much for me. Fortunately I have a wife who is so dead set on having a real tree that each year she drives out to a tree lot, bundles it into her car, and lugs it into the house. By herself. I don’t help with any stage of this process, other than extending a lukewarm offer to help, which she brushes off muttering that I’d just get in the way. Bless her.
  • Our kids invented a game they call “see-sum”. No idea where that word came from or what it means, but the game involves pulling down all of our blankets and pillows onto the floor, climbing onto the bed and then diving into the bedding. We don’t like it.

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11
Dec 22
Sun

Weekly Report: December 11, 2022

Observations

ChatGPT has been in the news this last week. It’s an AI chat bot, but that’s an innocuous description for a pretty eye-opening technological development. We’ve come a long way from Dr. Sbaitso, which I played with as a tween in the early 90s (although its main novelty was a text-to-speech synthesizer).

There are lots of examples people have been posting on Twitter. I thought ChatGPT’s ability to output source code is pretty crazy… although apparently it’s frequently wrong. Here are some random thoughts I have about this.

High School Homework. This one is on the top of everyone’s minds. ChatGPT has been trained on a massive corpus of text, and it can construct a relatively well-written, cogent, albeit insipid essay on just about anything you’d teach a high schooler. It’s not quite plagiarism, but it’s a form of cheating, and one that’s hard to detect in isolation. Maybe it’s kind of like testing for PEDs – if a student is writing better than expected, maybe it warrants a spot inspection? Or just random inspections? (”What are your sources and citations? Tell me more about this paragraph that you wrote?”)

Speaking of plagiarism, the jury is out about whether the training of ChatGPT and similar models on copyrighted works constitutes copyright infringement, as well as whether the authoring of new works that are indirectly based on copyrighted works also constitutes copyright infringement. At first blush, maybe there’s an argument for the former? For the latter, as long as there isn’t a direct copying of large blocks of copyrighted text, it might be analogous to doing research and synthesizing and paraphrasing information from a variety of sources. (However, direct copying of large blocks of copyrighted text has been an issue with GitHub Copilot.)

Speaking of insipid essays, ChatGPT and similar technologies like Jasper are great for generating SEO fodder – webpages written for search engine algorithms to pick up and rank. I wonder how Google will adjust?

Speaking of Google, people have been wondering whether Google has been resting on its laurels, with people comparing Google search’s results against ChatGPT’s responses. An Alphabet employee provided an explanation. The other reason is that Google is primarily designed to output links that go to relevant materials that address search queries. ChatGPT is specifically designed to answer questions. Try asking ChatGPT: “Give me links to 10 webpages that explain XYZ” and compare…

Speaking of search, an amalgamation of ChatGPT-style responses plus Google Search results is probably the next evolution of search. Google does provide direct answers to some questions at the top of its search results, but — apart from answers to factual questions like “how far is the sun from the earth?” — they are basically quotes from webpages.

Then a next step is to wire in real-time, real-world data. (ChatGPT has only been trained on data up to 2021.)

Then a next step is to enable a GPT AI engine to perform actions to create a supercharged virtual assistant. Imagine: “What are the best Star Alliance flights next month leaving on a Friday from San Francisco to Sydney with a 4-day stopover in Tahiti?” followed by “Is the fare refundable and what is the luggage allowance?” and then “Ok book me that flight using my visa card.” and so on.

This kind of technology can automate some functional forms of writing, which will save time. “Write me an email telling my landlord I want to cancel my lease 30 days from today.”

You should never use real answers to security questions like “what is your mother’s maiden name?”

No, it’s not going to replace lawyers.

Who knows if all the information it returns is accurate? It’s hard to vet unless you fact check it. Also, AI models can still be abused and influenced. They are still a bunch algorithms at the end of the day, even if the inner workings are inscrutable to us. ChatGPT provides this disclaimer: “While we have safeguards in place, the system may occasionally generate incorrect or misleading information and produce offensive or biased content. It is not intended to give advice.”

This is starting to look like sci-fi AI. But self-awareness and Skynet-type sentience — or the idea of singularity — is still a big leap away. AI that can make its own discoveries or contribute novel ideas to the sum of human knowledge is still sci-fi. ChatGPT pieces together information from existing human knowledge, but it can’t really build upon that corpus.

That said, sometimes breakthroughs in human knowledge come from combining techniques, insights and methods from apparently disparate fields and applying them to a specific problem. For example, the proof for Fermat’s Last Theorem drew from many different mathematical fields: “Wiles’s proof uses many techniques from algebraic geometry and number theory, and has many ramifications in these branches of mathematics. It also uses standard constructions of modern algebraic geometry, such as the category of schemes and Iwasawa theory … Wiles’s path to proving Fermat’s Last Theorem, by way of proving the modularity theorem for the special case of semistable elliptic curves , established powerful modularity lifting techniques and opened up entire new approaches to numerous other problems.” Perhaps a future version of ChatGPT will be able to able to expand knowledge by combining existing knowledge in novel ways.

All in all, ChatGPT has some very clear use cases with high utility that I’m sure we’ll see commercialized in compelling ways in the upcoming years. There’s a reason why its developer, OpenAI, is valued at so much.

Further Observations

  • World Cup Fantasy League Update: Our fantasy league group has been using ChatGPT to write trash talk to each other. After the first two knockout phases this week and an unusual number of penalty shootouts, I find myself languishing in 9th. The Brazil upset was brutal, as many of us had loaded up our team with a full complement of Brazilians, who were promptly sent packing by Croatia. England was, well, England. Out in the quarters on penalties.
  • World Cup Head-to-Head Betting Update: This is faring better for me, and I went on a crazy run of good luck (sorry, Dave):
In this case, lower is better for me

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4
Dec 22
Sun

Weekly Report: December 4, 2022

Observations

  • I would say that one of the biggest adjustments I had to make with parenthood was coming to terms with losing at least 35 hours each week. It’s not just the time spent actively looking after the kids, but it’s all the extra stuff around it as well — the extra laundry, food prep, clean up, transportation, and picking up toys from random places around the house. That’s a lot of hours each week. In my pre-kid days, I would say about a third to half of that lost time was spent working (and occasionally all of it), and the remainder was spent pursuing other activities. My tip for people in their 20s who eventually want to have children: if career is important to you, that decade is the time to go really hard in the paint (and to that end, I have no regrets personally). There’s been a bit of chatter about Musk’s edict that Twitter’s work culture should be “extremely hardcore”, coupled with a general realization that the economic climate has been good to tech companies for a long time and that the expectations of how intense working at a startup should be have perhaps moderated during that time.
  • BlockFi filed for bankruptcy and SBF has been going around giving interviews saying he basically had no real idea what was happening at the trading firm he founded and that managed most of his personal wealth. Personally, I find the stench overwhelming, and I don’t know whether it’s a fear of defamation or something else, but all the coverage of him by major news outlets is not what I would call hard-hitting journalism. It now looks like the dude took billions of dollars of other people’s money and gambled it away, after promising customers that they would not do that.
  • I very much enjoyed Australia’s 1-0 victory over Denmark this week. My wife, not so much. I now have 4 years to enjoy this. Unfortunately, Australia fell to Argentina after being in it with a shot.
  • In our Fantasy League, after moving to 4th in the middle of the week, I now find myself languishing in the middle of the table (8 out of 14) after a complete inability to pick any effective midfielders. In head-to-head betting, I was briefly in the black before it swung around again.
The bold line is $0

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Source: Reddit

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