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Links to articles, books, and other things worth consuming 📚

Neil Young v. Spotify (1/31/22)

Cana: Molecular beverage printers unlock the era of decentralized manufacturing
Cana, founded by TPB, is on a mission to eliminate plastic waste.

With all of the negative press surrounding tech, I wanted to first highlight a story that is a reminder of two critical things:

Cana is a startup aiming to completely upend the beverage manufacturing and distribution industries – it's effectively the machine from Star Trek that can make anything (so long as it's a beverage) you can dream up. Aside from the enormous environmental and consumer benefits of this disruption, this story fascinates me for some of its easier-to-miss second order effects: as just one example, the company aims to let individuals create and sell their own beverage blend formulas (all done digitally, of course) – in effect creating a 'creator economy' around beverages and recipes.

On the larger meta-trend this represents: I firmly believe hard tech is going to capture the lion's share of investment and the world's imagination and excitement in the next decade. Will there be breakout word game and social apps in the future? Of course, especially as augmented and virtual reality expand their footprint. But I strongly suspect that the defining tech companies of the next 10-20 years will be those who make an indelible impact on our physical and biological world, completely upending much of what we think is possible. We are going to live longer, healthier lives, improve living conditions for billions, and help heal our environment. If the last decade was about Tweets and viral videos, the next will be about profound changes to our day-to-day realities.

The Texas Electric Grid Failure Was a Warm-up
One year after the deadly blackout, Texas officials have done little to prevent the next one—which could be far worse.

Having had the unfortunate timing to be visiting family in Austin during last year's winter storm from hell (we had no power for three days and slept in our car), this one really hit home for me. Despite the death of hundreds of their constituents, Texas legislators have done next to nothing to ensure a similar disaster – or worse – doesn't unfold in the future.

Selling Out

Amidst turmoil in public (and now private) markets, some sage advice from Howard Marks, one of the most successful investors in the world. Spoiler alert: trying to buy the dip, sell before the selloff, or otherwise time the market is most often a fool's errand.

The Batch: Job Growth in Machine Learning, Amazon’s AI-Driven Clothing Store, Transformers for Robot Vision, Hiring Algorithms Under Scrutiny

Amazon's foray into IRL clothing stores suggests profound shifts are on the horizon. Virtual try-ons, custom made garments, and much more are within reach.

A Simple Plan to Solve All of America’s Problems
The U.S. doesn’t have enough COVID tests—or houses, immigrants, physicians, or solar panels. We need an abundance agenda.

Derek Thompson offers a persuasive argument that many of America's ills can be traced back to a singular issue: scarcity.

The End of Car Keys, Passwords and Fumbling With Your Phone at Checkout
The ultra-wideband, or UWB, technology that powers Apple’s AirTags could reshape how we interact with devices—if companies can overcome privacy concerns and other hurdles.

Ultra-wideband (UWB) technology promises a step-function improvement in numerous areas of our day to day life. Eliminating passwords would be the holy grail in my book!

Ready to Eat Some Lab-Grown Meat? The FDA Will Soon Decide
The science experiment could soon reach your supermarket.

Bloomberg offers an interesting look at the promise of lab-grown meat (note this is not the same as the Impossible Burger you've likely tried by now).

We Are at the Dawn of the Age of Physics-Supplied Energy
Power can become cleaner, cheaper, and better. Here’s how.

WIRED offers a helpful framework for understanding the current paradigm shift occurring in energy.

Billionaires Bankroll Cell Rejuvenation Tech as the Latest Gambit to Slow Aging
Start-ups bet that carefully controlled cell reprogramming may lead to age reversal, but hurdles remain

Get ready to hear a whole lot about Yamanaka Factors – they're all the buzz amongst the world's leading anti-aging researchers, and billions in funding are pouring in to double down on some impressive scientific progress.

Streaming's Endgame (Part Two) - 12/17/21


The Science of Mind Reading
Researchers are pursuing age-old questions about the nature of thoughts—and learning how to read them.

One of the year's wildest reads from the New Yorker, which dives into the increasingly fascinating (and alarming) world of mind reading research. Human to human thought-based communication, instant knowledge and translation, and thought extraction against a subject's will are all emerging on a not so distant horizon.

Startups and NASA working to return passenger supersonic flights to the sky
Nearly 20 years after the Concorde made its final commercial flight, new efforts are underway to make supersonic passenger travel viable again.

If you dream of spending less time on airplanes and more time enjoying travel, this one's for you. A nascent supersonic jet industry is showing some early signs of promise for revolutionizing passenger flight in the next two decades. Passenger flight is one of the few areas of our modern world which has remained relatively untouched by technological progress over the past several decades: while modern planes are safer, more comfortable, and offer better entertainment options, we still travel at virtually the same speed we did forty years ago.

How This All Happened
This is a short story about what happened to the U.S. economy since the end of World War II. That’s a lot to unpack in 5,000 words, but the short story of what happened over the last 73 years is simple: Things were very uncertain, then they were very good, then pretty bad, then really good, then rea…

A phenomenal summary of the past eighty years of economic progress (and peril) in the United States. The summary? We all still expect a life not-so-different from that of our colleages and fellow citizens, but that belief is becoming increasingly untenable.

A look under the hood of the most successful streaming service on the planet
Netflix’s secret to success is happening behind the scenes.

If you've ever wondered how Netflix offers the smoothest video streaming experience in the world – with far fewer buffering issues than HBO Max and competitors – this article is a fun read. Netflix's best-in-class CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a genuine feat of brilliant engineering.

Streaming's Endgame (Part One) - 11/15/21


Why Your Group Chat Could Be Worth Millions
If you turn it into a DAO, that is. But what’s a DAO? It’s a little bit cryptocurrency, a little bit gamer clan, a little bit pyramid scheme.

In 2021, it all goes down in the Discord. DAO's – Decentralized Autonomous Organizations – have been one of the most fascinating trends to emerge this year, with highly-engaged communities sprouting up around content curation, investing, the music industry, and much more. Friends With Benefits (FWB), a leader in the space, is profiled here for a recent $10M investment led by legendary VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. I suspect DAO's will have a big impact on media, culture, and finance in the coming decade.

Is Ginkgo’s synthetic-biology story worth $15 billion?
Jason Kelly has promised a manufacturing revolution with DNA. Just don’t ask him to make any products.

If I had to pick just one trend or technology that will have a profound impact on our future in the next 10-20 years, synthetic biology would be hard to top. SynBio – which promises to help us transform the physical world with DNA as we've transformed the digital world with silicon – is no longer a science fiction dream. This fantastic MIT Technology Review piece covers Gingko Bioworks, the largest player in the space, which is seeking to be the Amazon AWS for synthetic bio.

The Scientist and the A.I.-Assisted, Remote-Control Killing Machine
Israeli agents had wanted to kill Iran’s top nuclear scientist for years. Then they came up with a way to do it with no operatives present.

Few trends should concern us all more than the steady march towards A.I. led wars and conflicts. In this fascinating story – which, to my amazement, flew mostly under the radar in the U.S. – the NYT profiles perhaps the most advanced technologically-assisted assassination in history. This isn't a story about a specific conflict; it's one about where war is heading, and should concern all of us.

Beyond Britney: Abuse, Exploitation, And Death Inside America’s Guardianship Industry
For people under guardianship, the system can be dehumanizing, dangerous, and even deadly. For the professionals — who can control hundreds of people at a time — it can be very profitable. A BuzzFeed News investigation.

With the much-overdue news of Britney Spears' conservatorship dissolution, this in-depth BuzzFeed still remains one of the single most important reads of the year. I'll warn you ahead of time that this story is heartbreaking and deeply difficult to read, but it's hard to find a singular thing in more dire need of reform than America's conservatorship laws. This is one of those rare stories that will make you audibly gasp more than once in the course of reading it.

Meet the Little-Known Genius Who Helped Make Pixar Possible
Alvy Ray Smith helped invent computer animation as we know it—then got royally shafted by Steve Jobs. Now he’s got a vision for where the pixel will take us next.

WIRED offers a fascinating profile of Alvy Ray Smith, the godfather of computer animation – and an often forgotten man in the history of Silicon Valley, despite his enormous impact on popular culture. Computer Graphics is no longer the domain of techies and engineers; it is increasingly transforming legacy media, news, computing, and film in ways that will have far-reaching consequences for society.

‘The Men Who Are Killing America’s Newspapers’
For The Atlantic’s November issue, McKay Coppins reports on Alden Global Capital, the secretive hedge fund that controls more than 200 newspapers.

An incredible look at Alden Global Capital, a largely anonymous hedge fund which now controls over 200 local newspapers in the United States. AGC isn't merely looking to roll-up and streamline newsrooms; it's openly decimating them, starving them of resources to suck up free cash flow before selling off the scraps for pennies on the dollar.

On the Internet, We’re Always Famous
What happens when the experience of celebrity becomes universal?

Chris Hayes for The New Yorker on what happens when we're all under the gaze of the world's strangers. One of my favorite reads of the year.

🤯 Cool Stuff

A shocking look at how advancements in computer vision will soon enable photo-realistic renderings of real-world spaces from just a few photos.

Chris Dixon, who has an unmatched track record of getting the future right, on why the next generation of the internet – Web3 – is so important.

A look at what rockets of the near-future might look like.

A good reminder that whenever the next crash invariably comes – likely sweeping up much of Crypto/Blockchain/Web3 in the process – one should be careful about dancing on the graves of those who appear to be down and out.

Article Sources

Stephen Witt - How Music Got Free: The canonical history of music's evolution from the pre-digital to streaming era. Full of fascinating personal stories – particularly about industry legend Doug Morris – and a warning for what happens when entrenched legacy industries get upended entirely by technology they can't control. How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy (Audible Audio Edition): Stephen Witt, Stephen Witt, Penguin Audio: Books How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy (Audible Audio Edition): Stephen Witt, Stephen Witt, Penguin Audio: Books

Maria Eriksson - Spotify Teardown : The most in-depth analysis of any streaming platform to date (by a wide margin). A much more technical and statistical read than the How Music Got Free, but if you want to understand the underpinnings of our digital streaming economy, this is a fantastic place to learn. Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music eBook : Eriksson, Maria, Fleischer, Rasmus, Johansson, Anna, Snickars, Pelle, Vonderau, Patrick: Kindle Store
Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music - Kindle edition by Eriksson, Maria, Fleischer, Rasmus, Johansson, Anna, Snickars, Pelle, Vonderau, Patrick. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting…

Business Breakdowns - Universal Music Group (Podcast): A phenomenal deep dive on UMG, the market leader in recorded music revenue, and the current realities of the music business for artists.

Universal Music Group: The Gatekeepers of Music
Arman Gokgol-Kline is a partner and investor at Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb. We cover the ways music was sold historically, assess streaming’s impact on the industry, and dive into UMG’s place in the ecosystem.