Best of 2023

Photo by Sharosh Rajasekher on Unsplash

Best wishes for the rest of 2023

Whoever and wherever you are — thank you for subscribing to “Securities” and reading us week after week. Please have a joyous and restful holiday season, since as I wrote last week in Extreme Epoch, 2024 is set to be a watershed.

We’ll be on hiatus on Dec. 30th.

Best of the Podcast 2023

Design by Chris Gates via DALL-E
Design by Chris Gates via DALL-E

2023 was an incredibly busy year, and nowhere was there more fervent attention than on artificial intelligence. OpenAI launched ChatGPT at the very end of 2022, and its implications found purchase this year among more than one hundred million users and the regulators who serve them. Billions of dollars of venture capital flowed into the AI space, with investors funding everything from data infrastructure and better model training to the applications that are already beginning to transform industries across the world.

Our final “Securities” episode this year is a narration of our 9 favorite shows on AI, which we titled 🔊 “WTF Happened in AI in 2023?” It’s the perfect way to end the year — thanks to our producer Chris Gates for compiling all this material together. The 9 episodes we included material from are:

In addition to that robust series, we had several excellent episodes that weren’t about AI (shocking!). Four favorites:

Best of “Securities” 2023

Photo by Mike Kononov on Unsplash
Photo by Mike Kononov on Unsplash

AI was a recurring theme this year, as was international relations and the rise (and more specifically, falls) of the United Kingdom and Canada. But if there was one thread tying “Securities” together this year, it was employment, jobs and the meaning of work. From the strikes in Hollywood and the rise of generative AI to tighter immigration restrictions across the developed world and the increasingly nihilistic work life of most jobs, we sit at a critical juncture on how work should be valorized within our identities as people and countries.

My five favorite “Securities” columns from the past year:

  • "Existential Engineer" — my favorite piece of the year departs from the blind optimism of most of the tech industry to pursue a more deliberate path toward an existentialism of engineering and why building things matter to us not just materially, but spiritually as well.
  • "Garrulous Guerrilla" — the essential thesis on AI. I argue that the small fraction of creatives who do truly original work will survive generative AI, but that very few creatives are equipped to do original work. The implication is that millions of people will eventually lose their jobs in the years ahead.
  • Professional Prerogatives” — the jobs that will be protected from AI are those professions that hold the power to stop it cold. First up on that list will be doctors, who have already rebranded artificial intelligence as “augmented intelligence” in their pursuit of human autonomy. They will succeed, but other professions with weaker organizing skills will likely lose.
  • Brainwash Departures” — governments around the world are putting in place more and more restrictions on workers with expertise, essentially arguing that the thoughts of some workers are so important, that they are a national resource that must be secured. It’s a chilling new pattern, and one that should be aggressive fought against.
  • Striking Employment” — the superstar effect is decently studied in economics, but its effects have expanded to many more labor markets and even to many industries as well. The best are taking a greater share of the returns, and that’s transforming the economics for everybody else.

I’ll highlight two more pieces from our guest writers this year. Our summer associate Ken Bui’s best piece this summer was “IP, IP, Betray,” and our freelance writer Michael Magnani did a great piece on international organizations in “Loose BRICS.” Thank you both for joining “Securities” this year.

Lux Recommends

  • Grace attended the epicenter of AI that is NeurIPS last week in New Orleans, where our portfolio company Together’s academic partner Dan Fu won best paper for FlashFFTConv alongside his co-authors Hermann Kumbond and others. Check out the paper as well as his more accessible tweet thread. “We show that FlashFFTConv improves quality under a fixed compute budget, enables longer-sequence models, and improves the efficiency of long convolutions.”
  • Alex Nguyen recommends the Apple TV+ series Drops of God, which pits the daughter of a famed wine oenologist against a competitor for the inheritance of tens of thousands of bottles of rarefied wine. It’s a French adaptation of a Japanese manga series, demonstrating both the globalized nature of wine and also media.
  • Brooding and dark, I found Carolyn Dever’s essay on “How to Lose a Library” to be prophetic and philosophical. It’s about the cyberattack that has completely knocked out the British Library for weeks now. “How ironic that the most quaintly analog form of research possible, using physical books in a physical library, has been devastated by the hijacking of a digital system. I am experiencing this irony as especially bitter this morning, having arrived at desk 1086 with my list of tasks, hoping against hope that the crisis had resolved. It hadn’t. I hope it will someday soon.”
  • Shaq Vayda enjoyed Siddhartha Mukherjee’s latest piece in The New Yorker on “All the Carcinogens We Cannot See.” “This is a chilling duality of cancer: each individual cancer comes from a single cell, and yet each cancer contains thousands of clones evolving in time and space. Treating or curing cancer involves tackling this incredible degree of genetic diversity. It’s a clone war.”
  • Finally, our scientist-in-residence Sam Arbesman has a couple of fun pieces to note. An interesting fact about a Wikipedia article, why the oldest people are not as old as we think, and finally, the age-old question about the movie Home Alone — is the McCallister family rich? The New York Times investigates.

That’s it, folks. Have questions, comments, or ideas? This newsletter is sent from my email, so you can just click reply.