Quote of the week: 

“Choices are the hinges of destiny.” – Edwin Markham


Can AI save Meta’s hardware bet?

In his latest essay, Ben Thompson takes readers on a front-line tour of the latest developments in AI, from GPT-4’s most recent product updates (e.g. the AI can now talk and interpret pictures) to Meta’s announcement that it will be making AI-enabled smart glasses equipped with tiny cameras and microphones. 

Personally, I’m somewhat skeptical about the idea, which seems like a privacy nightmare. But Thompson does postulate an interesting thesis about Meta—and its big bet on hardware: “It was just 11 months ago that Meta’s stock was plummeting thanks to investor angst about its business, exacerbated by the perception that Meta had shifted to the Metaverse in a desperate attempt to find new growth… However, it seems possible that AI — to Zuckerberg’s surprise — may save the day.” He continues:

“This smart glasses announcement is — more than the Quest 3 — evidence that Meta’s bet on hardware might pay off. AI is truly something new and revolutionary and capable of being something more than just a homework aid, but I don’t think the existing interfaces are the right ones. Talking to ChatGPT is better than typing, but I still have to launch the app and set the mode; vision is an amazing capability, but it requires even more intent and friction to invoke. I could see a scenario where Meta’s AI is inferior technically to OpenAI, but more useful simply because it comes in a better form factor.”


How to optimize your thinking

Leading up to the release of his book Clear Thinking, Shane Parrish published five insights this week that are filled with both practical—and timeless—wisdom. Shane’s third insight, my favorite, explores the importance of deviating from the crowd if you ever wish to outperform. “Doing something different means you might underperform, but it also means you might change the game entirely,” he says. “The key is to create positive deviation.” Parrish, for the uninitiated, is the founder of the educational media site Farnam Street and hosts the Knowledge Project podcast. The book represents an accumulation of insights from his guests, his own personal entrepreneurial experiences, and his study of great investors like Warren Buffett. Parrish also spoke with Tim Ferriss this week in a longer-form podcast.

“Fear holds us back from taking risks and reaching our potential. No one grows up saying, ‘I want to do the same thing everyone else does,’ and yet there’s comfort to surrounding yourself with people who agree with you or who are doing the same thing that you’re doing. While there is sometimes embedded wisdom in the crowd, mistaking the comfort of the collective for evidence that what you’re doing will lead to better results is nothing more than a convenient lie. The only way to outperform if you’re doing undifferentiated work is to work harder than everyone else.”

A few more links I enjoyed:

“A good story is like leverage for ideas. Stories leverage ideas the same way debt leverages assets. An idea on its own might be boring, but if you tell a good story about someone interacting with that idea, you can get people to nod their heads and pay attention.”
“Altman wasn’t sure if the revolution he was leading would, in the fullness of history, be considered a technological or societal one. He believed it would ‘be bigger than a standard technological revolution.’ Yet he also knew, having spent his entire adult life around tech founders, that ‘it’s always annoying to say ‘This time it’s different’ or ‘You know, my thing is supercool.’’ The revolution was inevitable; he felt sure about that. At a minimum, AI will upend politics (deep fakes are already a major concern in the 2024 presidential election), labor (AI has been at the heart of the Hollywood writers’ strike), civil rights, surveillance, economic inequality, the military, and education. Altman’s power, and how he’ll use it, is all of our problem now.” (H/T Ben Jacobs)
“From my brief ‘field trip’, I have a working theory for what brings shoppers into dollar stores. I believe that the combination of reasonable prices and small package sizing is probably the secret sauce that allows stores to establish a niche in small communities like Stanley. Full-line supermarkets are going to offer far greater selection than one can find in a dollar store but package sizes are larger. Prices at the supermarket could very well be lower, especially if shopping the weekly ‘loss leader’ sales, but they are lower on a per-ounce or per-pound basis, not in absolute terms.”

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