AI-generated news anchors, COP28 feedback, incumbent presidents, students on Israel and Gaza, jobs and AI, auroras, what cats eat
December 18, 2023 - The Nett Report
Every other week, the award-winning Nett Report provides readers with thoughtful perspectives helpful to navigating life in a changing world. Past issues can be found here (recent) and here (past three years).
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Where will it be a white Christmas?
Our friends at Monarch Weather have predicted where snow will be on the ground on Christmas Day in the December 17, 2023, issue of Monarch Weather Weekly. “Having more than 1” of snow on the ground on Christmas Day will grant you those white Christmas bragging rights! Folks in the central and northern Rockies have the best chance of waking up to snow-covered yards thanks to multiple snow-producing systems fueled by atmospheric rivers. The interior northeast and folks east of the Great Lakes recently had accumulating snow and may pick up a fresh round before Christmas arrives. Other than that, the chances look bleak. Warmer-than-average temperatures and dry periods have deterred snowfall in typical regions thus far. Think about this: it has been at least 650 days since more than 1” of snow fell in a day in places like New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.”
LiveWired conference hits the mark on relevance
Wired magazine invited me to attend its 30th anniversary event on December 5, 2023, in San Francisco. Called LiveWired, and held in a performance venue, the event was cutting edge, just like the magazine. The event “convened an engaged audience of leaders, innovators, creators, and educators from tech, science, business, culture, politics, and more to learn about today’s (and tomorrow’s) biggest tech trends, innovations, and challenges.” It was one of those days that energize your work. I attended some fascinating sessions.
Let’s Die on Mars. About the future of human life on Mars. Could a woman give birth in gravity one-third of Earth’s? What are the environmental responsibilities of those who contribute to space junk? Could robots build infrastructure on Mars and the Moon?
Your Data Revolution. The founder of the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, along with John Bruce, co-founded Inrupt and talked about their company’s vision for a Web 3.0 where you control who sees your data.
Building for Impact. NBA star Stephen Curry headlined a panel focused on several companies that are aligning profit with social services to benefit youth.
Lessons in Choreorobotics. Stanford Postdoc Dr. Catie Cuan taught robots to dance, and the work has implications for how we interact with robots in the future.
The Companies of the Future are Public Benefit. A discussion with Faye Wattleton, the Co-founder and EVP of EeroQ, a company building the next generation of quantum computers using electrons trapped on the surface of superfluid helium.
The AI Optimist Club. An insightul conversation with Fei-Fei Li, author of The Worlds I See, and Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and the AI firm Inflection, putting into perspective public concerns about artificial intelligence.
The Future According to Jaron Lanier. Lanier is the Prime Unifying Scientist of Microsoft, but also a writer, musician, and one-of-kind personality who has some ability to see what’s coming next.
“Freedom of speech is the freedom to be heard, and most citizens’ freedom to be heard has been reduced as big corporations with deep pockets get the loudest political voice.” – Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor
“Supplying Ukraine with weapons to maintain its fight essentially means sending Ukraine outdated weapons while paying U.S. workers to build new ones, creating jobs largely in Republican-dominated states.” - Heather Cox Richardson, historian
Survey Results: Who could forge bipartisan leadership in both parties?
In the December 4 issue, we ran a survey asking which of five Democrats and five Republicans could best forge bipartisan leadership if they were to run for president, and if both Joe Biden and Donald Trump were not in the race. The survey was not statistically valid, but it was still interesting. Here are the results:
47% Amy Klobuchar
27% Gavin Newsom
20% Pete Buttigieg
7% Bernie Sanders
0% Kamala Harris
37% Mitt Romney
26% Nikki Haley
22% John Kasich
11% Chris Christie
4% Ron DeSantis
Incumbent US presidents tend to win elections — except during recessions
A December 12, 2023, report by Goldman Sachs indicates that since 1951 when the constitutional amendment to limit presidents to two terms was ratified, incumbent U.S. presidents tend to win elections, except during recessions. The firm says history suggests economic metrics can help predict the most likely outcome, according to Goldman Sachs Research. First-term incumbency typically provides an advantage — unless there's a recession during or just before the election. When there's no recession, the incumbent has always won in the post-World War II era. Goldman Sachs Research finds a 15% probability of a recession over the next 12 months (equal to the average historical probability).
What students think about Israel and Gaza
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently met with a group of students to “see what they could agree on, morally” about what’s happening in Israel and Gaza. “Some were Jewish, some were Palestinian, one was Israeli, some were from other nations in the Middle East.” After several hours, they agreed to the following seven moral principles, which he reported in his December 14, 2023, newsletter.
What Hamas did on October 7 was morally despicable.
Hamas’s avowed aim to murder all Jews is morally despicable.
What the Israeli government has done since then in Gaza is also morally despicable.
The murder or kidnapping of innocent civilians is morally wrong.
Israel’s policies toward Palestinians have been segregation and discrimination, based on ethnicity and religion, which are morally wrong.
It is morally wrong to urge genocide against any group — whether they constitute a religion, ethnicity, race, or nation.
All of us have a moral obligation to do everything within our power to prevent and stop all forms of genocide, all killing of innocent civilians, and the promotion of hate.
Building video games that encourage human interaction
A panel of gaming industry representatives speaking at Wired magazine's 30th Anniversary event on December 5, 2023, are “creating games that encourage users to form communities as part of the gameplay. The idea is that by fostering more human interactions, games can promote positivity and openness, bringing people together instead of pushing them apart.”
Future of Work / The Economy
What does AI mean for the future?
“Excitement about AI has helped feed optimism for the future and spurred businesses to invest.” - Alan Murray, CEO, Fortune
“Every new technology has its pros and cons. There’s a huge upside with AI, and then there are some disadvantages…But by far—orders of magnitude—the higher risk to worry about is China, not sentient AI killing us.” - Vinod Khosla, founder, Khosla Ventures
“Everyone is going to have their own personal intelligence. It will be for you. … Whatever that might be for you, and that will be different for each of us.” - Reid Hoffman, partner, Greylock
Channel 1 to utilize AI-generated anchors to read AI compiled news
Several decades ago, I imagined a better way to report the news, curating the best news reports each day and constantly updating them, so, at any time, anyone could log in and see a concise, non-repetitive news report. According to a story in New Atlas on December 12, 2023, a new, AI-generated news show by Channel 1 will do exactly what I had imagined, except it uses AI-generated news anchors rather than real people. The anchors will be able to speak any language realistically, their lips moving perfectly to the words in each language as needed. “Make no mistake, folks, this is the future,” New Atlas writes. “A system like this will let you choose your own presenter, language, and style. It'll bring you stories tailored to your personal tastes, lifted from news giants like Reuters and the Associated Press, and re-packaged the way you like them, complete with up-to-the-minute information depending on exactly when you choose to watch it.” Here’s a link to a video explaining the system from the anchors’ mouths. The video has examples of how the news would be reported that are worth watching.
Other than news anchors, jobs most likely to be taken over by AI
ZDNET, on December 8, 2023, published a list of jobs most likely to be taken over by artificial intelligence. “The UK's Department of Education recently published a study that found that 10-30% of occupations can be automated by AI, with most of these being white-collar jobs.” The top five jobs most exposed to AI in general include management consultants and business analysts, financial managers, accountants, and psychologists.
Stock market gains driven by the “Magnificent Seven”
The Wall Street Journal readers will know this, but for those of you who don’t, the stock market gains in 2023 have been primarily powered by seven companies which the Journal calls the Magnificent Seven: Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Nvidia, Tesla, and Meta Platforms. Their combined cumulative returns, according to a December 17, 2023, story in the WSJ, have jumped 75%, the remaining 493 companies in the S&P 500, not so much.
Attacks on ships in Red Sea to have supply chain impacts
A number of shipping firms are no longer using the Suez Canal to move products through the Red Sea because of continued drone attacks by Houthi groups in Yemen, according to a December 18, 2023, story by CNBC. Firms now avoiding the route include BP, Norwegian energy firm Equinor, oil tanker group Frontline, shipping giants MSC, Hapag-Lloyd, CMA CGM, and Maersk. “You are going to see some fairly seismic activity in terms of the implications for supply chains,” the editor-in-chief of Lloyd’s List told CNBC.
Understanding Elon Musk
I have been reading the book Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson to better understand the world’s wealthiest man. It is a worthwhile and intriguing read. I thought the quotes below and his five commandments, which Musk calls “the algorithm,” are worth sharing.
“If conventional thinking makes your mission impossible, then unconventional thinking is necessary ... Do not fear losing. You will lose. It will hurt the first fifty times. When you get used to losing, you will play each game with less emotion. You will be more fearless and take more risks. Be proactive.” - Elon Musk,
“To anyone I’ve offended, I just want to say that I reinvented electric cars, and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?” – Elon Musk
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” - Steve Jobs
The five commandments of Elon Musks’ algorithm to drive production
Musk uses these five rules to analyze and modify factory production.
1. Question every requirement. Each should come with the name of the person who made it … even if the requirement came from me. Then make the requirements less dumb.
2. Delete any part or process you can. If you do not end up adding back at least 10% of them, then you didn’t delete enough.
3. Simplify and optimize. This should come after step two. A common mistake is to simplify and optimize a part or a process that should not exist.
4. Accelerate cycle time. Every process can be speeded up. But only do this after you have followed the first three steps. In the Tesla factory, I mistakenly spent a lot of time accelerating processes that I later realized should have been deleted.
5. Automate. That comes last. The big mistake in Nevada and at Fremont was that I began by trying to automate every step. We should have waited until all the requirements had been questioned, parts and processes deleted, and the bugs were shaken out.
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COP28 - the agreement to reduce use of fossil fuels provokes a range of opinions
The recent climate change conference (COP28) in Dubai produced an outcome that, according to a December 13, 2023, story in Reuters, included representatives from nearly 200 countries “agreeing to begin reducing global consumption of fossil fuels to avert the worst of climate change, signaling the eventual end of the oil age.” The deal “was meant to send a powerful message to investors and policy-makers that the world is united in its desire to break with fossil fuels, something scientists say is the last best hope to stave off climate catastrophe.” The announcement of COP28’s agreement produced a range of opinions, some of which are reproduced here:
"It is the first time that the world unites around such a clear text on the need to transition away from fossil fuels." Espen Barth Eide, Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs
“This is a good first step from a complicated COP process, but not enough given the urgency of the climate challenge. The world will increasingly look to business to turn these words into action.” - Peter Bakker, CEO, World Business Council for Sustainable Development
“What now counts is if we can truly translate words into action.” - Paul Polman, Vice Chair, United Nations Global Compact; former CEO, Unilever
“Most people are paying too much attention to the historic deal to transition away from fossil fuel production … overlooking all the other great stuff that happened, most importantly the huge number of deals, partnerships, and other kinds of collaboration among the participants.” – Ray Dalio, billionaire investor and hedge fund manager
“This text is toothless, and it is nowhere even close to being sufficient to keep us within the 1.5-degree limit … It is a stab in the back for those most vulnerable." - Greta Thunberg, climate activist
Nothing to report!
The Nett Light-Side
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” - Mae West, American actress, singer, comedian, screenwriter, and playwright
“Authentic” is the word of 2023
“Merriam-Webster has chosen “authentic” as the word of 2023, partly in response to this "crises of authenticity" as they describe it, and partly in recognition of the high number of searches on their websites for it and related terms.” – Smithsonian Magazine, November 29, 2023
Northern Lights photo contest best 25
The Northern Lights are one of the most magical natural events in the world. The Northern Lights Photographer Of The Year 2023 competition by Capture the Atlas brought forward 25 of the best images of the Aurora Borealis, and the image above wasn’t even the winner!
Cats will eat almost anything, more than 2,000 species documented
Often described as picky eaters, and maybe they are when it comes to brands and flavors of cat food, but when it comes to hunting, cats are indiscriminate. They have been documented as eating more than 2,000 different species, and they kill as many a 4 billion birds and 22.3 billion mammals annually in the U.S., according to a story in the December 13, 2023, issue of Anthropocene.
Chicken feathers repurposed as fuel cell membranes
An October 23, 2023, article in Futurity, reports that researchers have learned how to extract the protein keratin from chicken feathers and can convert it into amyloid fibrils used in the membrane of a fuel cell. The process is environmentally friendly and puts otherwise polluting waste to good use. Each year, 44 million tons of chicken feathers are incinerated, releasing large amounts of CO2 and toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide.
About Carl Nettleton
Carl Nettleton is an award-winning writer, speaker, thought partner, facilitator, and subject-matter expert regarding water, climate, sustainability, the ocean, and binational U.S.-Mexico border affairs. Nettleton Strategies, the consultancy he founded in 2007, is a trusted source of analysis and advice on issues at the forefront of public policy, business, and the environment. He helps people and organizations to think strategically about their options for change. He is also the founder of OpenOceans Global, a nonprofit addressing ocean plastic in a new way.
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