1. Another one bites the dust! There was a time when I madly listed for the Prada Phone by LG. It was like iPhone before iPhone.  LG recently announced that it was leaving the phone business for good. Such a shame. LG never “capitalized on the household name recognition” and “was beset by an inferiority complex to crosstown rival Samsung,” writes Roger Cheng, in this close examination of what went wrong at LG. This great read — and it highlights that to win, you need to overcome self-doubt. Research firm TrendForce data shows that LG made 30.6 million smartphones in 2020 – a 2.4% market share that equals ninth place in the global ranking of smartphone brands based on 2020 production volume.
  2. Abandoned Disasters: The unseen climate disaster in plain sight — that is how I would describe the growing problem of abandoned oil and gas wells. The Girst has conducted a wide-ranging investigation and found that, led by Texas and New Mexico, these abandoned wells are accelerating the release of dangerous methane into the environment, in addition to polluting the groundwater. This story is so horrifying, and it made me angry. The short-sighted nature of our society and our agencies is infuriating. Have a read, and decide for yourself.
  3. What great branding by pasta-maker Barilla. Listen to Spotify and make perfect pasta. Moody day linguine is my favorite. 
  4. What compels us to jot down poetry and poetic thoughts in our Notes app, of all places? I didn’t know, so I read this article.
  5. I was on Stacey Higginbotham’s podcast and we talked about ARM’s new chip architecture and future version of Bluetooth, apart from the usual banter between two former colleagues.  ARM, by the way, is the company whose IP is powering most of the smartphones on the planet, amongst other things. 
  6. The unexpected history and miraculous success of vaccines is a great read from Matt Ridley, one of my favorite writers. It is also a great reminder that humans have always resisted vaccination, and through history, have greeted them with scorn and suspicion. 
  7. Why such a big fuss about the Moun-g-2 particle experiment. If you are a science-savvy and physics enthusiast, a good explainer from Symmetry magazine.
  8. National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence has a new report. 756 pages. It is worth reading, especially if you think the future and American influence are tied to technology. 
  9. “I believe in open source, and if WordPress isn’t a good fit for you, there are other great open source communities. We also have a great relationship with some of our proprietary competitors, and I have huge respect for the teams at Shopify and Squarespace, and even though we compete, I’ve always seen them operate with integrity, and I’d recommend them without hesitation.” Matt Mullenweg, CEO Automattic. Wix and Their Dirty Tricks – Matt Mullenweg

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“The kinds of programs that we have now, AI algorithms, don’t have the ability to replace a human. A human is still going to be the best at being able to generate creative, interesting stories and to be able to compose a unique song.” Dr. Jane Wang, senior research scientist, DeepMind . [via LDV Capital]


person holding white ceramic sink
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The EVs — electric vehicles are everywhere. More SPACs are touting their fantastic future where they sell millions of vehicles. Elon Musk is the wealthiest guy in the world. Everything is so lit, except no one wants to talk about the elephant in the room — rare earth metals and the pollution that comes with mining them. And nothing is more precious for this new EV future than Lithium — the stuff at the heart of our connected future.

It is why the US needs to figure out how to control its rare-earth destiny and become less reliant on overseas suppliers and processors — read China. And that’s why every eye has been on the Thacker Pass Mine, a Lithium mine in Nevada. The mine can generate over 66,000 tons of Lithium a year for about four decades, the company behind the mine brags. But it will come at a substantial environmental cost. And that has got a wide variety of people up-in-arms.

Maddie Stone, writing for Grist, outlines the legal, social, and climate challenges against the Thacker Pass Mine in her deeply reported story, The Battle of Thacker Pass. I hope you read it.

This week, Tim O’Reilly provided much-needed perspective in his essay “The End of Silicon Valley As We Know It.” If you can overlook the clickbait title, this essay is among the most valuable things you can read to understand our present and think about our future. While there has been much hoopla about folks leaving Silicon Valley, new distributed work philosophies, and other daily headlines, these are primarily distractions from a deeper, more profound change afoot in what we call Silicon Valley.

The Algorithmic Accountability Index: Ellery Roberts Biddle and Jie Zhang have created an accountability index for the algorithmic economy. They looked for companies’ answers to some fundamental questions about algorithms: How do you build and train them? What do they do? What standards guide these processes? An essential piece. 

How the race for autonomous cars started: We might be on the brink of the future where we all zoom around in self-driving cars and other autonomous vehicles. It is easy to forget that, 16 years ago, autonomous driving was a chaotic dream. In his new book, Driven: The Race to Create the Autonomous Car, Alex Davies chronicles what brought us to this moment. Wired magazine recently ran an excerpt, and you should check it out.

Did Tech prevent the World from a bigger meltdown?: While we have read many articles about technology becoming a dominant force in our lives during the pandemic, this article in Foreign Policy asks (and answers) the question from a different angle. I liked the nuanced argument, and that is why I recommend it for your weekend reading.

The cassette tape creator is dead: In time, what was a disruptive technology becomes a part of our life that we don’t even notice. One hundred billion units later, cassette tape is one of those technologies. It kicked off the ability to personalize the curation of music. You can draw a straight line between those tapes and Spotify playlists. Lou Ottens, the engineer who created the cassette tape, died recently. Ottens also helped create the compact disc, which ultimately killed the cassette tape. His obituary is a reminder that only very few are fortunate enough to create technology that touches everyone’s lives.

Everything, they say, is bigger in Texas. Even the cold snaps and the impact of climate change! “I think the Texas freeze will become the new poster child for compound weather and energy disasters,” atmospheric scientist Daniel Cohan of Rice University told Yale Climate Connections. “Why the power is out in Texas … and why other states are vulnerable too” is a must-read article about the recent storms. More importantly, it points to our power’ grid’ vulnerability and the lack of long-term resilience in our infrastructure against climate change. 

As a society, we often look for a Big Bang-like event to shake us through our slumber, but climate change is different. It is more like a boxer getting hit in the head and not noticing that his brain was turning to mush. The denialism around anything based on science is a disease that is the real problem for America.

“As climate change escalates and disrupts weather patterns, our country must update the grid, immediately, or risk losing not only power but lives,” warned environmental scientist Urooj Raja of the University of Colorado Boulder. Will we listen?  If our response to the pandemic is any indication, then the increased tribalism and politicization around climate change will be worse. 

Read article on Bob Henson, Eye On The Storm