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🔥 Human face of technology #8

Where to invest money, what skills to develop and more - internet advertising, EV, electric bicycles, the Uber crisis, current state of AI, Netflix’ business strategy, philosophy of identity and Zuckerberg’s political manifesto.

Tech

📉 50% of the internet traffic is currently generated by bots, 11% of users have ad block. Online advertising is an interesting market, 85% of which is controlled by two companies (Google and Facebook) generating most revenues from their native formats and consuming all of the growth. The rest are fighting for 15% of the market using formats which nobody clicks and more and more people block. Quo vadis?

🚙 Many smart people say that electric vehicles will become popular quicker than we think. According to a research by McKinsey, 30% of American (and 45% of German) consumers are ready to buy an electric vehicle, but they cannot find the right model. The main problem is still the price - li-ion batteries are expensive. Although it seems as if this problem will soon be resolved - many companies and countries invest lots of money in manufacturing batteries. China wants to remain the leader. What’s interesting, Poland is also present on the map of countries where significant numbers of li-ion batteries are manufactured, it is to be the world's 4th manufacturer of batteries thanks to an investment from LG Chem.

🚲 France supports each electric bicycle purchase with a 200 EUR subsidiary. Electric bikes have lots of advantages - they are quick, they generate no CO2, they are cheap to use, they take up little space and in contrast to regular bicycles, they are easy to ride up a hill. Their main disadvantage is the price. An average electric bicycle costs about 2800 Euro.

😮 Uber has a bunch of problems recently. It started with the #DeleteUber campaign, which was a response to the fact that Uber drivers did not join the Taxi driver strike in New York related to the travel ban implemented by the Trump administration. After this the CEO of Uber resigned from President Trump’s advisory board. Later, it turned out that the terrible corporate culture at Uber allowed for sexual harassment of women working at the company. On top of that, Google says, that the software used in Uber’s autonomous vehicles was stolen from their company, Waymo. Uber exists thanks to the fact that they were not afraid of breaking the rules and they bent local laws. They also grew in an unmatched aggressive way. Those two things must have degenerated Uber’s corporate culture. I vote with my wallet and my default choice for a taxi service in Poland is iTaxi.

🔮 Current state of AI - a list of what AI can already do today. The list is long. Many of those ideas are still at early R&D stage, but initial results are promising. I think that the best way to consider AI at right now is to view it as a set of practical, focused solutions which solve very specific problems, rather than in the metaphysical sense of an omnipotent entity which can solve every single problem of humanity or may also be a potential threat to humans.

Culture

📺 Netflix bought the rights to Martin Scorsese’s newest film “The Irishman”, starring Robert De Niro. Netflix invests gigantic amounts of money in rights to video content. As we can observe, they cooperate with top creators. Does it pay off? Ben Thompson nicely described Netflix’ business strategy in detail on his blog and in his presentation.

👭 At the beginning of January, Derek Parfit, the philosopher, passed away. Vox described his main hypotheses on morals, identity and effective altruism. His thoughts about identity are very interesting. For a long time i have been thinking what picture should be placed on a person’s gravestone. Should this be a picture of the person when they were young, middle aged or one showing what they looked like before they passed away? Will people remember us for who we were? What if in the last 20 years of our life we’re suffering from dementia and we become less of ourselves in terms of character and behavior? Who are we then? An average of the person we have been in our lifetime? At which moment of our lives are we the mostly ourselves? When do we reach the “peak me”? Parfit argued that “it doesn’t matter” and draws significant ethical consequences (effective altruism). It’s fascinating.

🌎 In recent months several books from top authors have been published on future, artificial intelligence, work and humanity. I am currently reading all of them: Homo Deus, Thank You for Being Late, Whiplash, The Inevitable.

Society

💶 In 2008 Warren Buffet made a bet with the investment company Protege Partners, that the Vanguard index fund which reflects S&P 500 will achieve a better result in the next 10 years than the portfolio of 100 hedge funds which are investing “manually”. Everything indicates that Buffet is about to win his $1 million. The Vanguard Fund grew by 66% in the last 10 years, and the hedge fund portfolio only by 22% (including the cost of management). The “touchless” index fund gives better results than expert knowledge of hundreds of analysts of investment funds. That’s amazing.

🎭 Cognitive skills will be most important in the labour market. What are they? Being thorough, persistent, social skills, self control, leadership skills, teamwork abilities, etc. Modern jobs require less of the ability to perform repetitive activities. More tasks require cooperation with other specialists or customer service abilities. According to the World Economic Forum report, the skills which will be crucial in 2020 include: solving complicated problems, critical thinking, creativity, management, cooperation, emotional intelligence, decision making, customer focus, negotiation skills, flexibility. Does to contemporary system of education teach these skills?

🙊 Mark Zuckerberg thinks, that the world’s problems can be solved on Facebook. It is a rather dangerous vision, which we should oppose to. Problems of the world cannot be solved on Facebook, moreover - Facebook generates many new problems. For example it becomes a tool in the process of validating law-abidingness for visa eligibility. Or it simply stupefies society with fake news and becomes an addiction. I think that people slowly realize, that the use of Facebook (and other social media) needs to be limited. New guidebooks are created on how to deal with the addiction. For Facebook it is a long-term problem, addictive “substances” are usually highly regulated by state authorities.

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