Hi! I am Om & this is my letter where I share what’s on my mind, my latest writings, articles worth reading from around the web, my recommendations & some of my photography.
In this issue, I address:
- A new framework
- A few good AI reads
Apart from my work-related commitments, all I have done is read, read and read as part of my 2023 mission to upgrade my knowledge base. I have also spent quite a few hours talking to people and educating myself about three areas of primary interest, and they have become part of my new framework for making sense of the world. The new framework’s underpinnings are a “new compute” (infrastructure and software) layer and the impact of this new computational layer on science, materials, and climate-related technologies. The key is how all this comes together and helps make sense of tomorrow’s more significant problems and opportunities.
The new framework of thinking is the same as my previous framework of thinking. For instance, a post-Web 1.0 world for me meant— anywhere, anytime, on-demand computing, thanks to cloud and mobile as enabling technologies. These would redefine and create new behaviors. Social (networking) was and still is a critical new behavior, and it has defined how we have interacted with data online for a decade-and-a-half. Similarly, AI is a critical part of my new framework for organizing various trends. It will increasingly determine how we interact with data and thus shape our consumption of knowledge.
Social and Web 2.0 have collectively taught us suitable lessons and should inform our thoughts about our present and future. Social helped create the (Internet version of) network effects, accelerated by the rise of mobile. It created opportunities and ill effects, both at massive scale. In the excitement about the future, we must remember the problems unleashed on the planet by a cavalier attitude adopted by social platforms, especially Facebook. Misinformation and its distribution, a social cancer today, was metastasized by platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
As always, my view of technological shifts is optimism with a dose of realism and caution. I have always had an optimistic lens regarding technological shifts — because if you don’t, then you can’t imagine what progress looks like. You can’t appreciate opportunities. And more importantly, you can’t come up with options to prevent things from going wrong.
And perhaps that was why I was (too) early to point out that we should not be blind to Facebook and its grand plan to sacrifice everything for engagement in pursuit of advertising dollars. The rise of big data made me worry about the Darwinian impact on society.
We are likely going to see a rerun. What we have labeled as “AI” will not only help augment what we do but also create problems — at a much larger scale and with much more significant consequences. We can’t afford to be blind to them. In short, if we follow the well-trodden path of “build fast, break things,” we might pay a heavy price as a society.
Below, I have listed four essays that should help you understand the complexity of our future.
PS: This research is making me go back to old-fashioned blogging, and I am making a minor tweak to the blog and will share what I have found and learned more often. Come on by to Om.co!
- What happens when everyone can create “small bits of code?” How does it change how software is made, distributed, and consumed? In other words, are we ready for a disposable software paradigm? A great essay! (Geoffrey Litt, Malleable software in the age of LLMs)
- AI brings risks such as job loss, misinformation, safety, and lack of societal trust. But an open letter asking for banning all AI development is misleading and sowing confusion instead of fostering a good conversation, argue academics (Sayash Kapoor and Arvind Narayan, A misleading open letter about sci-fi AI dangers ignores the real risks)
- What is the impact of artificial intelligence on software development and, by extension, our increasingly digital-first economic reality and society? These two essays give you a great framework to come to conclusions. (Paul Kedrosky & Eric Nolin: Chat GPT, AI, & The Future of Work + AI, Mass Evolution, and Weickian Loops.)
Some of my recent writings
- Photography’s future is software and computation. The big question is, will the camera companies do anything about it? At least one camera maker knows his company can’t ignore the reality.
- The photography industry’s falling fortunes and shifting consumer behavior are reflected in Amazon’s decision to shut down DPReview, a beloved camera review website.
- Two Decades Later: It has been two decades since I moved to San Francisco. It was a reluctant move, but it has worked out well.
- On social, it’s a fine line between an idiot and a genius.
One Good Listen:
Lana Del Ray is one of my favorite artists. I like her because she has a tremendous old-fashioned voice of a balladeer, which is so relatable. And to top off, she makes old-fashioned songs and strings them together in an album, and you can set it on repeat and forget. I am digging her new album, Did You Know There Is A Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard.
- Gordon Moore, RIP. An interview with the legend who helped change and create our modern world. This is an oldie, but the grand old man of Silicon Valley got so many things right — challenges for America and competition with China. Thank You, Gordon Moore
- The boys who started the whole filter craze with Hipstamtic are reinventing it — check out the new Hipstamtic.
- Happy birthday Spotify. It started in 2006 on April 1st. It started as a tiny little dot placed on a desktop to share songs between friends.
April 2, 2023. San Francisco