Introducing the Unbabelita

Unbabel Newsletter #007–20 Dec 2017

Original strip by Tetley Clarke

Greetings Earthling,

2017 may winding down (unless you read anything on Twitter), but we’re ramping up for a huge 2018. So, just a couple of things to say before we’re back in your inbox in January.

First, the Financial Times featured Unbabel in their special report, “50 Ideas to Change the World”.

You can imagine how happy my mother was about that.

Read more in their feature, Faster and more accurate: machine translation is nearly here.

Over on the blog, Maria also got stuck in and asked, Should Language Be More Gender-Neutral?

And finally — the best margarita recipe outside of Tijuana. Having deemed “Matthew’s Sinful Mouthful” a bit off-brand we’re going to call this The Unbabelita — a cocktail guaranteed to liven your festive spirit this holiday season.

The Unbabelita 🍸


50ml freshly-squeezed lemon juice (rather than lime)
50ml tequila (we use Olmeca Reposado)
30ml Cointreau (not Triple Sec)
15ml sugar syrup

First, get yourself a cocktail shaker and fill it with ice. Pour in the above ingredients and shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Next, rim a glass with a lemon and rock salt, and pour the contents of the shaker through a strainer into your glass, leaving the ice behind. Et voila — your own Unbabelita.

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

Matthew Carrozo

PS: Like what we’re doing with this newsletter? Please consider forwarding to a friend and getting them to subscribe.

Consume more content 📝

10 Year Futures (vs. What’s Happening Now) — Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz gives annual keynote at a16z Summit. “Today, we have two innovation conversations: First, what can we build on the billion-scale platforms we have, what new models can we create, and do the internet giants leave any room? And second, what are the NEXT S-curves — the next transformative technology waves?”


How to Do Tinder According to Linguistic Experts — If you’re wondering why you’re not getting any replies to your messages, Vice might have the answers for you.

Language evolution: when did we stop “making love” and start “having sex”? — you may not be surprised.


The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine — “From now on, the distinguishing factor between those who win elections and those who lose them will be how a candidate uses that data to refine their machine learning algorithms and automated engagement tactics. Elections in 2018 and 2020 won’t be a contest of ideas, but a battle of automated behavior change.”

Data, Power, And War — We’ve built a power structure that leaves the public good begging at the door. This must change.

Using Artificial Intelligence to Augment Human Intelligence — By creating user interfaces which let us work with the representations inside machine learning models, we can give people new tools for reasoning.

Inside Baidu’s bid to lead the AI revolution — After missing the boat with mobile, China’s Baidu is on a relentless quest to live up to the government’s mission of dominating AI in the coming decade.

Teaching Machines to Understand User Interfaces — Machine learning now allows designers and developers to skip redundant steps in their workflow, going from hand-drawn sketches directly to image assets and code.

Fowl Language: AI Decodes the Nuances of Chicken “Speech” — How machine learning can translate chicken chatter and improve farming.


VR pioneer Jaron Lanier on dystopia, empathy, and the future of the internet— “The problem with the online world today is that to maximize engagement, you need to maximize emotional engagement, and the emotions that are most engaging are the negative ones. All of these movements… provide the fuel to the social media system. But to maximize the value of that fuel, it’s routed into negative purposes, so the people who are the most irritated by whatever is going on that’s positive are introduced to each other. The backlash is vastly more powerful than the initial attempt. My prediction is that #metoo will create some kind of horrible social event through social media in about a year.”

Estonia, the Digital Republic — Its government is virtual, borderless, blockchained, and secure. Has this tiny post-Soviet nation found the way of the future? See also: Estonia planning its own cryptocurrency, called ‘estcoin’, in bid to become global ICO hub


The Amazon Machine — Amazon, then, is a machine to make a machine — it is a machine to make more Amazon. The opposite extreme might be Apple, which rather than radical decentralization looks more like an ASIC, with everything carefully structured and everyone in their box, which allows Apple to create certain kinds of new product with huge efficiency but makes it pretty hard to add new product lines indefinitely. Steve Jobs was fond of talking about saying ‘no’ to new projects — that’s not a very relevant virtue to Amazon.”

From Territorial to Functional Sovereignty: The Case of Amazon — In functional arenas from room-letting to transportation to commerce, persons will be increasingly subject to corporate, rather than democratic, control.

Jim Simons, the Numbers King — he made Renaissance Technologies into one of the world’s largest and most successful hedgefunds. Now he’s opened the Flatiron Institute to mine data for the common good.

Disney and Fox — Stratechery dives deep into why the megamerger makes sense for Disney to rule as the supreme content provider in the 21st century.

9 Boxes — Building out our multi-revenue model — BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti outlines how they are going to become the big winner in the unstable world of journalism and publishing.

The Other Tech Bubble. Techies Still Think They’re the Good Guys. They’re Not. — Silicon Valley is slow to come to terms with the fact that it’s become the new Wall Street.

There’s an implosion of early-stage VC funding, and no one’s talking about it — since 2014, the number of venture capital rounds in tech companies worldwide has nearly halved, although the absolute amount has not fallen nearly as much, suggesting that VCs are concentrating their investment into fewer later-stage companies. Is this the end of the (current) startup boom?


Never Under-Estimate the Immune System — large institutions have built up immunity and resilience to distraction, but those very qualities may be their ultimate vulnerability, resisting the very changes required for their survival.

Units of Time are the New Currency — “Building a traditional moat will be antithetical to building a great business. The only way to survive is to extract the core of your business and spread it out to compound returns on time. First, you have to save time for your customers and even yourself. Then, you have to invest it forward by co-operating with other products in your ecosystem. Finally, you have to acquire new innovation to maintain your lead.”

Radically Open: Tom Friedman On the Future of Work — Be radically open. And that’s a really hard sell right now, because it feels so counterintuitive, and everyone’s putting up walls. Why do you want to be radically open? Because you’ll get more ‘flows’ — you’ll get the signals first and will attract more flow-minded people, whom I call high-IQ risk-takers. You want to be plugged into as many discussions, as many places, and as many ‘flow generators’ as possible to understand where the work of the future is coming from.”


Generation Screwed — One of the best produced long-reads we’ve seen in a long while. Why millennials are facing the scariest financial future of any generation since the Great Depression.

Super-rich shown to have grown out of ancient farming — The world’s wealthy elite has its origins in the first landowners to use oxen and horses, a global study has found.

52 things I learned in 2017–52 dinner party conversation starters. Did you know that 50% of Sony PS4 consoles in videogame repair companies in New York are infested with cockroaches? They use the wide ventilation ducts on the bottom to move into the warm interior, mate and make a home.