AI Ben Digital Legacy
Next mingle. A week in global investments. Second order Ukraine impacts. Sustainability, arts links.
Thanks to everyone who came to my show on Friday. It was great. If you can, tell me what worked and/or what you thought could improve. I’m unsure when or if the show will have another outing. I do have a recording - let me know, if you’d like to see that.
“AI Ben” as digital legacy
100K prizes for new blogs this year
Global Investments: nickel, COVID, biotech, tech…
Food, energy, second order impacts from Ukraine
BBC reporting from Ukraine frontlines
Excess Death Lancet study suggesting UK similar to France, Germany
Theatre Unconference (D&D) coming up, 19-21 March
Sustainability Jobs; carbon shorting, UK heating/building strategy; digital intangibles
Endurance (Shackleton) shipwreck found
Mark Ravenhill play writing podcast; Haiku, train jokes
One new element of the show was the idea of “AI Ben” as a form of digital legacy. This involves feeding all my works into a machine learning algorithm such as GPT-3 and thus producing a digital form of myself which would last beyond my life. I was surprised that everyone voted for this idea. No one seemed worried about this prospect. In terms of possibility, I think it’s a reality now where sophisticated programmes with enough data to work on can produce this “version of a person”. Games and movie studios are already using the technology.
We (I say we, but it’s only me and whatever the theatre provides for the show) had a technical disaster earlier in the day leaving my (theatre produced) technician indisposed. It was looking like I might not even have an operator for the night. (It was scheduled as a 2 hour or so tech and then I went back to work). This highlighted the strong “resilience” of my show as I could basically run it myself once I had programmed one lighting state. It was a tip told to me years ago about solo-ing and bringing outside shows to theatre.
A similar idea is how much you write into a script and how much you let other theatre makers interpret what you write. Samuel Beckett was (and his estate is) famously strict. On the other end, devised pieces barely use a script.
As aside, theatre-making is a huge team enterprise and I think most other organisations can learn from how the best of theatre works. The blend of creativity, operations and team work is immense.
I was asked how hard it was to do. I mostly worked in evening hours and so it didn’t seem impossibly hard to do. I suppose this is a general theory of Ben, many tasks require “execution” but they are not necessarily technically difficult. You may learn skills but you don’t need 10,000 hours of practise. Like a podcast. Almost everyone reading this letter could make one if they want to. Same with blogging. In fact, I definitely encourage you to. And if you are thinking about long-term or sustainability you can enter these awards.
The global environment is different today than even last year and certainly 5 years ago. To glimpse a week of global investments - of course everything downstream of Ukraine from: neon, to wheat, to geopolitics, to food, to policy and humanitarian challenges. (25-90% of high grade neon used for computing chips if produced in Ukraine, dpending on which report you believe)
Day to day investment life is very busy.
Nickel markets. The background to this has some traders/investors (eg Cliff Asness) fuming.
China, Hong Kong and the latest COVID wave. COVID is far from over and it’s particularly impacting parts of Asia at the moment.
What is the future of trends in technology? Buzz words: cloud computing, metaverse, crypto, web3; there was a major investment banking conference on technology. These happen every month, if not almost every week. Company management teams and investors debate the latest ideas. While some of the frontier remains in VC and private companies, there is still plenty in public markets. I hear the airBNB CEO made a good case for the role of “experience” in our lives.
Where is biotech and healthcare going? What’s true of Tech is true of healthcare (and in fact most major sectors, there’s a conference every week/month where the largest, most innovative companies meet with investors). Our ability to address health continues to progress and is better this year than 5 years ago and 5 years before that etc… It’s perhaps one reason why I remain cautiously optomistic about progress as I’ve seen so much on health over the years.
The rising chances of recession. So many emails on this. There are some models which use bond yields and those are flashing with very high risks of European recession (although others put little weight on those models). This is highly topical and debated.
And so that’s only a tiny glimpse into the heated world of equity (and debt) markets…
The war in Ukraine is going to have plenty of second and third order impacts we are only glimpsing now.
Most immediately, I’m thinking about food and energy prices, in particular in the short term. Longer term, geopolitics, energy security, defence etc. are also all going to change.
And look at how much poor households spend on food.
My Mum switched off all her standby equipment last month and she tells me saved at least £7. Energy bills are more than doubling for some people and £2000 to £4000 for heating is now a typical range.
The poorest 5th quintile of the population spend 30-40% of income on food. When you put food and energy together the cost of living crisis in the poor is going to be extreme.
My guess is that rich nation governments are going to have to step in and support the poor.
This might be the case globally to some degree.
Away from the Ukraine, I will be podcasting Stian Westlake soon. (Stian’s first book was Capitalism without Capital (also with Jonathan Haskel, blog on it here) and he is ex-NESTA (impact and innovation agency) and now at Royal Statistical Society.) His co-authored new book is out on March 21. If you are in London and want to come to the book launch that evening let me know will send you link.
Let me know if you have questions.
Excess deaths due to COVID. I’m unsure if the methodology is completely sound here but this latest Lancet paper (so is peer reviewed) suggests UK deaths are about the same as France and Germany. Norway is much better than average. This story is not over eg Hong Kong is not looking good at the moment.
The big theatre unconference of the year is happening again soon. If you’ve not been before, but want to have some thoughtful conversations about the state of theatre then do go.
Sustainability academic finance jobs:
“We are seeking to appoint two new Senior Research Associates as part of the Oxford Sustainable Finance Group (OxSFG).”
OxSFG is multidisciplinary and works globally across asset classes, finance professions, and with different parts of the financial system.
This could be quite negatively triggering for some but this BBC reporting from Ukraine frontlines. A glimpse into the live horror of war.
On some marvels of human exploration. Dan Snow’s team finds the wreck of Shackleton’s ship the Endurance. Note the wonderful sea creatures who live on the ship now.
Inflation thinking from a top US economist thinker.
Insightful paper on how companies with significant in house digital capabilities might be more productive.
ESCoE @ESCoEorgAre digital-using UK firms more productive? So consider ESCoE Research Associates @DianeCoyle1859 @d_vidnguyen @mtongkoecklin in their eponymous blog & paper published today on the ESCoE website. Read the blog here, with links to the full paper: https://t.co/A75uGjPXZS https://t.co/iEMMQIK090
Mark Ravenhill’s latest play writing podcast episode:
Chris Stark and the Climate Change Committee on the UK’s heat and building strategy.
Chris Stark @ChiefExecCCCToday we publish an assessment of the UK Government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy. With the shocking oil and gas price spike this is suddenly one of the most important consumer issues - most homes and offices are currently heated with fossil fuels. https://t.co/QZ4JWMd3rl
Have an idea to reduce nuclear war risk?
tylercowen @tylercowenWho is working to limit nuclear war risk? Please leave your suggestions in the comments: https://t.co/g0jsmhbMym
Are experts OK at forecasting?
Arb @ArbResearchOur first public work is out! We review the idea that the very best generalist forecasters can beat experts at predicting events *in their own domain of expertise*. https://t.co/lrALO7pudW
UK may not need as much oil and gas as you think….
And finally, Harvard Endowment group on shorting as a tool, contra Jason Mitchell.
At some point, I need to write up the complexity of what both sides are agreeing on, or not agreeing upon, because I am not sure most casual observers understand the arguments. (I have gift subs, if you can’t get the article)