4+1: episode 4

I really enjoyed reading my friends’ reactions to the weekend heatwave up in San Francisco. OK, I guess the reaction was slightly justified :)

  1. After a long discussion last weekend with a neighbor on autonomous vehicles (AVs), who happens to have background in machine learning and computer vision, I ended up spending a lot of time thinking about AVs. An interesting topic in this subject is what will differentiate one competitor from another, once the building blocks for AVs (sensors, specialized hardware & software) become commoditized. Ben Evans on his excellent weekly newsletter ended up having a discussion exactly on this, which I dug up as I was cleaning up my inbox. One differentiator could be high-quality maps. Like any machine learning application, the training set (and not the algorithm) is the goldmine. It looks like some sharp people are already working on this and I’m sure they’re not the only ones.
  2. Have you ever had a brilliant idea of building “Uber for X” or “Airbnb for Y”? I’m sure you have. Before you fall into the trap of building a marketplace, you may want to see where this doesn’t work and where it might work. It so happened that I stumbled across a bunch of articles on this topic this week, like this and this.
  3. My recent wrist accessory has been making me walk even more than before. I’ve always enjoyed walks, especially late at night. The latter is undoubtedly a male privilege, as for many women, especially those in most urban centers, this may be a risky proposition. There’s nothing like a random walk (without a goal or path in mind) to get your creative thinking juices flowing. Many great people have shared this mindset. FWIW, I highly recommend taking all your meetings (when possible) on foot. I did this often at my previous work and it looks like some other companies follow the same practice.
  4. It looks like a couple very interesting outcomes have come out of YC Research, one tackling universal healthcare in low-income countries and another building really cool VR technologies. I’m looking forward to seeing more great things coming out of there. Big-picture items (e.g. healthcare, modern cities) that can’t perhaps be immediately-funded require speculative funding thrown at them.
  5. You may have an idea that your version of the internet (e.g. your social media feed) isn’t the same as anyone else’s. But how would you feel if you knew that your online shopping experience may also be tailored to you, not just which items are shown first to you, but also the prices for these items. A recent research project looked specifically into this. Although the findings were that prices were personalized with gross signals (e.g. geography) and not highly personal data, there’s nothing preventing Amazon from doing just that (barring any existing law that I’m unaware of). This would be a great way for progressive sales taxation, if you ask me.