Summary of readings and conversations for the week

Trends observed

  • Worsening income inequality
    • driven by increased globalization and automation with failure in re-education as the primary cause
    • Continued low worldwide interest rates as central banks the world over struggles to prop up inflation rate at 2%
  • Rise in protectionism around the world in response to income inequality
    • Slowing trade volumes around the world
  • Demand saturation at the upper income segments
    • Slowing demand for housing in South Bay
    • Too much money chasing after too little deals

Related sources

Book summary AI super-powers, China, silicon valley and the new world order by Kai Fu Lee

The difference waves of AI

  • Internet AI – Facebook, Netflix, Google search
  • Business AI – Palantir
  • Perception AI – Tesla cars
  • Autonomous AI – Tesla self driving, Google self driving

Key locations

  • Silicon Valley
  • Zhong Guan Cun – Beijing

State of the Union

  • We are in the stage of implementation/application as opposed to RnD
    • having access to more data is more important than have expertise to do more RnD
    • having solid AI engineers is more important than AI researchers
  • We are still far from general AI
  • Key ingredients
    • data
    • computing
    • maybe work of strong AI algorithms engineers

Key differences between eco-systems

  • Silicon Valley businesses are mission and core values driven while Chinese businesses are pragmatically focused on profitability.
  • Silicon Valley businesses stay in bits and binaries offloading the brick and mortar to external vendors vendors while Chinese businesses extend their business model into the brick and mortar (online to offline)
  • Silicon valley prefers one size fit all strategy, Chinese businesses utilized localized solutions often investing/acquiring in local startups
  • Americans treat search engines like Yellow Pages (come and leave fast) while Chinese treat search engines like shopping mall (come to linger around long)
  • Silicon Valley is adversed to copying preferring to be unique Chinese business copy the heck out of each other

Chinese Advantage

  • Abundant data – quality and quantity aided by their online to offline initiatives
  • hungry entrepreneurs
  • AI scientist
  • AI friendly policy environment – strong emphasis by Chinese government
  • Hardware manufacturing know how – Shen Zhen
    • unparalleled supply chain flexibility – XiaoMi

Silicon Valley Advantage

  • Microchip manufacturing know-how

Trends within the Chinese eco-system

  • Darwinian eco-system has lead to extreme levels of competition
  • Chinese companies have already moved past the stage of clone Silicon Valley business models
  • Businesses innovate to build a defensive moat around themselves. Local businesses have advantage, with no timezone differences to deal with, decision making is relatively faster.
  • Online to offline
    • an essential ingredient to building strategic moats
    • caused the decline of cash use
  • Chinese government information systems will be able to leap frog US government information systems

Policy approaches

  • Google – impeccable safety
  • Tesla / China – trial by fire
  • key to winning the Autonomous AI race
    • is the bottleneck technology (Silicon Valley) or policy (China)?

Key concerns

  • having cheap labor is no longer going to be a source of advantage in a world heavily powered by automaton.  Developing countries hoping to employ this well tested strategy to progress will not be able to do so anymore
  • Estimated 60% potential job loss worldwide barring policy interventions
  • Job loss probability assessment
    • physical labor
      • environment – unstructured versus structure
      • tasks nature – level of dexterity versus high dexterity
    • cognitive labor
      • social – high versus low
      • cognitive – optimization based versus creativity/strategy based
  • AI replacement approach
    • single tasks approach
    • ground up rethink re-imagination
  • A population of irrelevant (no longer employable) as opposed to unemployed

Tackling Key concerns

  • Silicon valley – reduce, retrain and redistribute
  • Kai Fu Lee – stipends for care, service, education

New promise

  • Humans freed up from repetitive tasks can now focus on becoming more human oriented

Related readings

  • Disruptor, Zhou
  • www.Arvix.org – an online repository of scientific papers
  • Folding Beijing – Hao JingFang

Mark Zuckerberg chats with Yuval Noah Harrai on the Future of AI

Key take aways

  • Spread of inequality where some countries have the ability to harness AI while others don’t
  • AI based recommendation systems moving from being just an oracle to becoming a sovereign
  • AI as a tool is an amplifier
    • concerns that it will benefit totalitarianism more than democracy leading to totalitarianism becoming a more favorable governance model worldwide
    • surveillance
    • psychological manipulation – the inability to know your true self through your thoughts
    • what happens if morality and expediency diverge when it comes to governance
  • Effectiveness of curbing the negative effects of AI by encoding values within policy frameworks governing these AI based systems
    • Companies based in Democratic countries will encode democratic values within their systems vice versa for Totalitarian countries
  • Personalization versus Fragmentation
    • when everyone in a country chooses his own community that is mainly online there is no longer a glue holding the local community together
  • Long term versus short term
    • The long term benefits might come sooner than expected when taking a short term trade off

 

Book summary – Range

  • specialists by instinct will grip tighter to their core tools when the environment becomes more chaotic
  • Repetition to optimize for efficiency is only suitable for a predictable environment
  • in a chaotic environment being able to draw solutions from a wider range of domains will lead to qualitatively better and more innovative break through solutions
  • build culture that encourage dissent rather than blind adherence
  • build teams that are deeply networked rather than hierarchical

Reflections on the subject of economics

Man as an automaton

The average man eats, sleeps, shits and reproduce.

When presented with environment stimulus that signals more of the above, his brain emits dopamine which elicits are warm fuzzy sensation in his body which he interprets as pleasant.

When presented with environment stimulus that signals less of the above, his brain emits adrenaline which elicits muscular tension and heat in various parts of his body which he interprets as unpleasant.

Physics as the upper bound constrain for economic activities

Economic activity is what man as a collective organism engages in as it goes about fulfilling its above stated needs.

A quantum leap in economic activity is only possible when there is significant break through in the field of physics.

A large increase in numeric valuation of such economic activities without corresponding increase in actual physical throughput volume will result in either an inflation or a subsequent correction.

Characterization of economic activities

Aerobic economic activity is when the environment remains at equilibrium during energy extraction for the above stated needs.

Anaerobic economic activity is when the environment equilibrium is disturbed during energy extraction for the above stated needs.

Framing as a high level principle

He who controls the frame determines what goes within it.

The jug shapes the water.

The player controlling the outer edges of the Othello board generally wins the game

The country which controls the currency for all international commerce control the direction and level of cross border commercial activities.

US controls the global USD supply which majority of foreign economic activities and debts are denominated in. US controls the future economic outputs creditors will receive in the future.

Major creditors for US debts like China and Russia are moving towards Gold as the denominator.

Key take aways from The Governance of China by Xi JinPing

Vision

  • The Chinese dream
    • make country strong and prosperous
    • revitalize the nation
    • make people live better lives
  • 2 centenary dream
    • baseline being the 1840 opium war
    • a moderately prosperous society by 2021
    • fully rejuvenating China to its former glory by 2049

Modus operandi

  • perpetual learning and improvement
  • the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics
  • further develop the theory of socialism
  • system to guarantee outcome
  • holistic view when developing policies
  • A wise man changes his way as circumstances change; a knowledgeable person alters his means as times evolve
  • Employ the way of the gentleman
  • Fostering of core values to ensure population knows what the right thing to do
  • A warlike state, however big it may be, will eventually perish

Strategic objectives

  • System integrity
    • stem out corruption within the public service
    • safeguarding state sovereignty
    • coordinating national security in the environment of rapid technology innovations
    • staying close to the people in the grassroots
  •  Reform
    • figuring out the relationship between the government and the market
    • Free the mind
    • Develop productive forces
  • Progress
    • Education to cultivate young people to boldly strive forth and including overseas
    • Technological invention and innovation combined with social development
      • internet
      • Bandwidth
      • cyber security
      • AI
      • robotics
    • Management know-how
    • Urbanization of rural areas
    • Military build up
    • Energy sufficiency – one belt one road, climate change
  • Consolidation
    • Hong Kong
    • Macao
    • Taiwan
    • All foreign Chinese nationals

Key challenges

  • Allow market to play decisive role in allocating resources and let government perform its function better
  • imposing order on the markets to prevent people seeking economic benefits through
  • dealing with production lags
  • effective competition to yield superior outputs
  • inconsistent market rules leading to rampant protectionism within local markets
  • fiscal and taxation systems to divide power between national and local government
  • management of technology security risk

foreign relations

  • inclinations
    • averse to hegemony
    • averse to war
    • averse to intervention
  • Mexico, Latin America
  • Russia – trade using local currencies and go off the USD
  • US – on cyber security
  • Asia
    • 67% of world’s population
    • aims to become leader in region
    • increase imports from this region into China
    • improve regional security
  • One belt one road
    • Africa – technology transfer and trade via one belt one raod
    • EU – trade
    • Central Asia and Middle East – invesments, trade and oil for energy needs via one belt one road

Related references

  • Taoism
  • Mohism
  • The Mencius, Meng Zi
  • Strategies of the states, Zhan Guo
  • The Great Learning, Confucianism
  • The book of songs, King Wen
  • The book of rites
  • Advice to my son, Zhuge Liang
  • The methods of Sima, Si Ma Fa

Key takeaway from Great Again by Donald Trump

Personal mous operandi

  • When you draw a line in the sand if someone else crosses the line enforce repercussions
  • When laws are not enforced them, they don’t exist
  • Plays cards close to vest to keep opponents second guessing
  • Values loyalty highly
  • find the best people to get the job done and then watch over them
  • The side that needs the deal most should walk away with the least

On foreign military

  • Long term rivals: China and Russia
  • Build up strength of US military as a form of deterrence to avoid necessity for deployment
  • Only intervene when US economic interest is served as opposed to a purely ideology driven approach
  • Countries that benefitted from US military aid should pay for service
    • South Korea
    • Germany
    • Saudi Arabi
    • Japan
    • Britain
  • On the middle east
    • Iran should not be trusted
      • their nuclear research program
      • their motivation to take over the entire Middle East
      • their motivation to wipe out Israel
    • See Israel as an ally. Sees the need to ensure balance of power amongst players within the middle east
    • The removal of Iraq has a net destabilizing effect on the region
  • Keep oil prices in check
    • to keep ISIS oil revenue from Iraq and Syria in check
    • To insulate the US economy from OPEC’s price setting ability
    • To become the largest oil producer in the world so as to overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia so as to keep their economic influence in check

On foreign trade

  • Believe in escalating use of sanctions to force other countries to table for negotiations
  • US Trade deficit is concerning
  • On China
    • Have deep respect for the Chinese who are great businessmen
    • largest holder of American debt
    • Chinese stock markets have too much influence on US stock markets
      • 2015 Chinese stock markets collapse caused US Dow Jones to plummet 1,000 points
    • Sees China as more dependent on US than US is on China. To utilize this as a leverage
  • Discourage other countries from devaluing their currencies against the USD
    • Japan
    • China
    • Mexico
  • Rectify faulty trade arrangements
    • China
    • Mexico
    • Russia
    • Iran
    • Saudi Arabia
  • Willing to utilize economic strength (American consumer) to reward countries that cooperate and punish those that don’t

On the economy

  • Believes in a progressive individual taxation system to provide more liquidity for the lower to middle class
  • Encourage companies to bring jobs and manufacturing back to the US
  • Streamline and lower corporate taxation to encourage companies to bring foreign reserves back to the US
  • Reduce corporate taxation to encourage growth of local companies and manufacturing
  • To reduce over-regulations to increase growth rate of corporate activities
  • Build up of military encourages GDP growth
  • Build up of infrastructure encourages GDP growth and facilitates commerce
  • On Oil
    • To build up the US Shale oil industry
    • Create more jobs domestically

On healthcare

  • break up virtual state monopolies by insurance companies
  • allow competition to make insurance companies compete for their customers

On education

  • decentralize control of the educational system to the districts to enforce standards
  • mistrust teacher unions’ ability to make sure only the best teachers get the job

On domestic operators

  • On reporters
    • mistrust political reporters as they generally misrepresent and bias towards sensationalization
    • trust financial reporters because dollars and cents are at stake
    • build relationship with them to generate free publicity for his ideas
  • Views interest of politicians as mis-aligned to interest of people

On immigration

  • Wants to retain the best foreign talents within the country and make it easy for them to contribute
  • To stem out illegal immigration so as to keep out unqualified immigrants
  • To remove the USD1billion/yr cost of keeping foreign criminals in US prison
  • Stop the tide of refugee immigrants to reduce the cost and repercussions of supporting them

On guns rights

  • 2nd Amendment, gun rights needs to stay intact so that citizens can keep the state in check and have a way of protecting their family
  • People with mental health should not be allowed to own guns
  • Over regulation is ineffective, criminals do not get their guns via normal routes

On religion

  • Believes in the freedom of religion
  • Believes Christian ideals is the philosophical foundation of the US

Book summary: Everybody lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

Signals from Search

  • What people search for is in itself a signal
  • The order of keywords in which they search is also a signal
  • Quality of google search data is better than in Facebook because
    • You are alone with no fear of being judged
    • You have an incentive to be honest

On Big data

  • the needle is still the same size but the haystack has been getting bigger
  • Be judicious by cutting down the sample size of the data to be used

Data science

  • Trust your intuition as the initial signal but verify quantitatively to avoid narrative bias
  • Correlation is most often sufficient for utilization purposes – often the explanation of why the model works comes after the fact
  • critically assess the actual data underlying the narrative. At times it might tell a very different story than narrative presented
  • Clustering of groups of people helps predicts behavior – Netflix and baseball
  • AB testing to discover causations

Social Impact

  • great business are found on:
    • secrets about nature
    • secrets about people
  • Modeling
    • Physics – utilize neat equation
    • Human behavior – probabilistically via Naive Bayes classification

Managing angry people

  • Lecturing them will provoke their anger
  • Provoking their curiousity will cause their attention to be diverted causing anger to subside

Related readings

  • Zero to one, Peter Thiel

Book summary: The Fate of Rome

Climate is both an enabler and disruptor of human endeavors. Nature balances the population it supports. Technology enables increased rate of energy extraction from environment to further human purposes.

Conducive climate results in bountiful yield and has allowed Rome to rise. Land is cleared and trade networks flourish during the rise of the empire. Clearance of wild lands unlocked microbes into the human civilization.

Microbes evolve to utilize humans and other mammals as vectors of infection. Dense population and connected trading network serve as a multiplier. The worst pandemic is the white pestilence (Black Death). This wiped out more than half of human population.

Trading network collapse as a result of the decimated population. Military rank diminishes both as a result of population decimation. Problem is further compounded by collapse of financial system which makes it difficult to sustain an army.

Grounds are fertile for spread of monotheistic dooms day religion like Christianity. Emperor Justinian converts to Christianity. Classical Greek school of thoughts gets displaced.

Climate change for the worse force nomads with superior military power to migrate westwards into Roman territory.

Roman Empire with decimated population gets further crippled.

Insights from dinner with Yuan

Conversations with Wang Ji Lei (Google)

China’s 996 practice has allowed China to close the 30 years technology gap between China and the US within the past 5 years. Some segments like cashless commerce have already surpassed US. The norm is some labor regulations are considered formalities and adherence is not necessary.

China’s distribution path starts from Beijing, 1st tier cities, 2nd tier cities, 3rd tier cities and finally remote villages. While double digits growth has been the norm over the past five years, market saturation has been achieved within the Chinese digital space and most apps are having problems growing.

Baidu’s Ads revenue model via search is increasingly being disrupted by Tic Toc. They have lost 50% ofvtheir search revenue last year. Similar trend is being observed with Google’s Ad revenue model which is bring increasingly disrupted by Amazon in the below USD75 consumer goods segment, Facebook between the USD75 and USD2000 consumer goods segment.

Tic Toc and WeChat dominate the bulk of the mobile usage bandwidth in China. Tic Toc with string positions within the short video entertainment segment while WeChat in the social conversations segment. Both companies face significant challenges encroaching into the other’s territory.

Tic Toc is the only Chinese mobile entertainment app that has made significant headway out of China. They have a well defined playbook which specialized tiger teams follow to gain traction in new territories. Maintenance is transferred to local team once penetration threshold is achieved. Due to fickle nature of users, retention remains the number 1 challenge. Position can be easily displaced by new entrants. Thebunderlyimg thesis is that city dwellers have lots of fragmented time spread across a day. Each video is restricted to 45secs to reduce anxiety that user has to stop watching between engagements. This also helps induce the habit of chipping in between engagements.

Typical engineer’s salary in Beijing is USD50,000 per year while a house cost around USD2million. While typical engineering salary in Silicon Valley is at least USD100,000 per year while house cost at least USD1 million. Wealth is mainly retained at the upper levels in China. Given the ratio of salary to house price as well as the comparative working hours, there is significant pull of talents to Silicon Valley.

Average green card waiting time for EB1 is now five since it’s been expended to include executives.

Major housing development is occurring in South Bay given huge influx of population and hiring by google (50,000 people) and other giants. Heavy recruitment is happening as Google continues to build out its cloud team.

Google cloud’s market share continues to lag with Amazon leading, Microsoft Azure in Second and AliCloud 3rd. Google cloud organization is facing an inflection point as upper management faces difficulties with zeroing in on a clear strategy. The symptoms are the dilemma between engineering culture (Google Default) versus customer culture (Amazon) and SMB versu Enterprise. Google’s traditional engineering culture has the effect of causing company to drift towards heavy engineering solutions which might be an overkill for SMB needs coupled with a lot of wastage which no one needs. This opens up a gap for customer focused companies.