Roam Notes and Anki Deck on “Notes on Technology in the 2020s” by Eli Dourado

  • Title:: Notes on Technology in the 2020s
  • Author:: [[Eli Dourado]]
  • Recommended By:: [[Patrick Collison]] on Twitter https://twitter.com/patrickc/status/1345405936240742400
  • Reading Status:: #complete
  • Review Status:: #[[third pass]]
  • Tags:: #articles #technology #progress #innovation
  • URL:: https://elidourado.com/blog/notes-on-technology-2020s/
  • Source:: #instapaper
  • Anki Tag:: dourado_2020_tech
  • Anki Deck Link:: link
  • Notes

    • Overview
      • [[Eli Dourado]] thinks through how various promising technologies could evolve over the next decade. (View Highlight)
    • End of [[the great stagnation]]?
      • Metric marking the end of [[the great stagnation]] – sustained growth in utilization-adjusted [[total factor productivity]] of 2 percent per year. It was 2.1 percent over 1947-1972, only .17 percent since 2005. (Note: utilization-adjusted version is important since it corrects for the business cycle.) (View Highlight) #Ankified
      • Scientific breakthroughs alone are not enough to end the Great Stagnation. "TFP only budges when new technologies are adopted at scale, and generally this means products, not just science…This means building businesses, surmounting regulatory obstacles, and scaling production. (View Highlight) #commercialization #Ankified
    • [[Biotech]] and [[health]] (View Highlight)
      • [[mRNA vaccines]] provides the ability to encode and deploy arbitrary mRNA in our bodies—"it allows us to essentially program our cells to make whatever proteins we want". For [[COVID-19]], the vaccine instructs our cells to make the spike protein (View Highlight). mRNA technology can be deployed against non-viruses, like [[cancer]] (e.g. [[BioNTech]] treatment). (View Highlight) #[[Moderna]]
      • [[CRISPR]] is a technique for editing [[DNA]] discovered in 2012, but haven’t made a meaningful economic contribution yet—no treatment using CRISPR has been approved outside of [[clinical trials]]. (View Highlight) #Ankified
      • "[[DeepMind]] [[protein-folding]] breakthrough signals a promising decade for the science of [[proteomics]]. Most directly, being able to predict protein shapes will enable us to discover drugs more rapidly." But this is still a way off due to drug trials taking a long time. (View Highlight).
      • [[life extension]]: [[Conboy Lab at Berkeley]] helped prove that replacing plasma rejuvinates germ layer tissues and improves cognition by reducing neuroinflammation. (View Highlight) This is a product that could actually come to market – [[therapeutic plasma exchange]] is [[FDA]]-approved for other conditions (not aging), but could be provided off-label, and it’s cheap – "An automated [[plasmapheresis machine]]—which lets you do treatment after treatment—can be bought online for under $3,000". (View Highlight)
        • Another related product is [[aging clocks]] to know how biologically old you are – these are available today. (View Highlight)
        • [[metformin]] is something to look into if you are metabolically unhealthy. (View Highlight)
      • [[health sensors]] on [[wearables]] like Apple Watch are becoming better and more prevalent every year. (View Highlight)
      • "Let’s salute and cheer for the discoveries, but spare many thoughts for the entrepreneurs trying to bring treatments to market." (View Highlight) #commercialization
    • [[Energy]]
      • [[wind power]] and [[solar power]]: costs of these have decreased significantly over the 2010s but deployment is only 9% of utility-scale electricity generation in the US as of 2019. Going forward, cost reductions will stall, but deployment will increase. (View Highlight) #Ankified
        • Intermittency is a challenge. To reach a grid powered entirely by today’s renewables, we would need storage at a price of $20 per kWh (with caveats). To power the grid today entirely with renewables, would need price to be about $20 per kWh, while current prices are in the $500-$600 per kWh range. Increased demand could make price reductions in the future challenging. (View Highlight)
      • [[nuclear power]] or [[geothermal power]] seem to be required for scalable zero-carbon baseload energy.
        • [[nuclear power]] is challenging due to high costs
        • [[geothermal power]] is the most plausible this decade. This is apparently an area ripe for innovation: "The startups I have spoken to think with today’s technology they can crack 3.5¢/kWh without being confined to volcanic regions." Possibly 1¢/kWh by the 2050s, making it difficult for [[nuclear power]] to compete (View Highlight) #Ankified
      • [[sustainable alternative fuels (SAF)]] will be big in 2020s. Airlines can’t electrify since batteries can’t match fossil fuel energy density, which means airlines must go with [[hydrogen fuel]] or SAF. Dourado is betting on SAF over Hydrogen (esp. fuel made from CO2 from the atmosphere), since they are more energy dense. (View Highlight) #Ankified
    • [[transportation]]
      • [[electric cars]] – they’re better than regular cars due to lower fuel costs, lower maintenance costs (fewer moving parts), faster acceleration, higher low-end torque. (View Highlight) One exception is trucking, which may have to shift to hydrogen. This shift will significantly reduce air pollution from unregulated ultrafine particles; resulting in fewer premature birth, asthma, cancer, and mystery illness.
      • [[autonomous vehicles]] could happen at scale in 2020, and autonomy is inevitable eventually with constantly improving sensors and machine learning algorithms. (View Highlight)
      • [[supersonic aircraft]] will have a big impact on global business when it comes, but this is likely not in the 2020s. (View Highlight) [[urban air mobility]] may also happen (e.g. Joby, Wisk).
      • [[drone delivery]] is likely in the 2020s, with the [[FAA]] about to issue a rule expanding operations at night and flights over crowds. (View Highlight)
      • [[tunnels]] are a possible route in countries like the US where it is extremely difficult to build above-ground due to "promiscuous distribution of the veto power" (View Highlight). [[The Boring Company]] has a couple promising projects here, and Dourado is optimistic about the impact on commerce since time and hassle cost of travel is a key input to the [[gravity model of trade]].
    • [[space]]
      • [[SpaceX]] seems poised to dramatically reduce the cost of space exploration with [[Starship (SpaceX)]]. The Space Shuttle was about $65,000/kg to low earth orbit, [[Falcon 9 (SpaceX)]] is only $2,600/kg, and reasonable estimates suggest Starship could reach $10/kg. (View Highlight) #Ankified
      • Some consequences: commerce between Earth and space expands (e.g. manufacturing materials that can only be made in space, [[Starlink (SpaceX)]]), and less engineering required on payloads due to the consequences of losing them being lower. #[[gravity model of trade]] (View Highlight)
    • [[information technology]]
      • "[[custom silicon]] is going to be huge", due to incredible performance gains. Another name for this is [[system on a chip (SoC)]]. [[Apple M1]] is a notable example. "Almost all computer hardware—anything that has any scale to it—will move in this direction"
    • Conclusion
      • "It all depends on [[execution]]. The underlying science is there. The engineers are willing. Even the funding is available in most cases. But, as a society, how much urgency do we feel? Our culture does not prioritize [[progress]]—it fights, destructively, for [[status]]. And our politics reflects our culture." (View Highlight)

Roam Notes: Elon Musk Interview from Air Warfare Symposium 2020

  • "Author::" [[Elon Musk]] [[General John F. Thompson]]
  • "Source::" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sp8smJFaKYE
  • "Tags::" #Business #Management #Leadership #Innovation #SpaceX #Tesla #Government
  • "Anki Tag::" musk_2020_air_warfare_symposium
  • "Anki Deck Link::" link
  • {{[youtube]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sp8smJFaKYE}}
  • Overview

  • [[General John F. Thompson]] interviews [[Elon Musk]] with a focus on [[innovation]], and how organizations such as the [[US Air Force]] can become more innovative. The interview contains practical information for senior management in large organizations that want to improve innovation.
  • Notes

  • 6:15 Interview Begins. How do you ensure products don’t remain static and incrementally improve over time? #[[radical innovation]]
    • It’s important to push for radical [[breakthroughs]]. If you don’t push for these, you won’t get radical outcomes. To get a big [[reward]], you must have a big [[risk]]. The [[US]] will fall behind in [[innovation]] if it doesn’t continue to do this. It’s a risk today and wasn’t in the past.
  • 13:00 Is this need driven by competition with other countries? Or is this regardless of competition? #competition
    • Without a doubt, if the [[US]] doesn’t make big moves in [[space]], it will be second place in space. [[Innovation]] is the key attribute of the US and it needs to use it.
  • 14:00 What does the US need to do to maintain that innovative competitive edge? #Ankified
    • [[Outcome-Based Procurement]] is very important. You say "this is the outcome sought" and whoever can achieve this outcome to a greater degree the [[government]] will do business with. #Procurement
  • 17:45 The workforce is a key component in radical innovation. What do you do to motivate a workforce to help them become more radically innovative? #Hiring #incentives #[[encouraging innovation in an organization]] #Ankified
    • The most important thing to do is to make sure that you have an incentive structure where innovation is rewarded and lack of innovation is punished. Carrot and stick. People that are innovating should be promoted sooner, and if someone’s in a role where innovation should be happening and it’s not, then they should not be promoted or exited. "Then let me tell you, you’ll get [[innovation]] real fast. How much do you want?"
  • 19:40 Wouldn’t that make people too risk averse?
    • You have to have some acceptance of failure – failure has to be an option. If you don’t allow trying and failing you might get something worse than lack of innovation – things may go backwards. "You want reward and punishment to be proportionate to the actions you seek." Reward for trying and succeeding, minor consequences for trying and failing, and major negative consequences for not trying. "With that incentive structure you’ll get innovation like you won’t believe."
  • 21:20 What about processes – are there processes you recommend to bring about radical change?
    • Designing a production system of a new product is at least 1-2 orders of magnitude harder than designing the initial prototype.
    • Designing a rocket easy. Making one of it is hard. The making of a production line that builds and launches many is extremely hard.
  • 26:00 [[Starlink]] – as you scale to build more and more satellites and launch them, what are challenges you’ve had to overcome? #Ankified
    • It’s important to have a tight feedback loop between the [[design]] of the object and the [[manufacturing]] system. When you design, you don’t realize the parts that are difficult to manufacture, so bring manufacturing and design up together. Counterintuitively, it can be the right thing to do to manufacture the wrong thing, i.e. build it before design is done, because you discover what’s hard to manufacture.
  • 29:15 To figure out what to build, you could query customers ("customer pull", e.g. improving a [[Tesla]] based on customer feedback), or innovate and push something into the customer base ("company push", e.g. iPad). How do you think about that balance? #Ankified
    • [[Henry Ford]] once said that if you ask the public what they want, they would have said "a faster horse". When it’s a radically new product, people don’t know they want it because it’s not in their scope. Customer feedback once they have the fundamental product is a good thing, though. #[[market research]] #[[customer research]]
  • 34:00 In the next 5 years, what technology do you think will see the most advancement?
    • [[AI]] will be the most fundamentally transformative. Computer science and physics is what you would want to study to prepare for this future. If you want to understand the nature of the universe, these two fields have great predictive power.
  • 35:23 What should the Air Force be investing more in for innovation, other than reusable rockets?
    • Once you have dramatically reduced cost access to space, many things are enabled. Analogy: the [[Union Pacific Railroad]] made travel across the country much faster and less dangerous.
  • 41:30 The failures you’ve had to endure would drive many nuts. What’s the mindset to get through that?
    • You want the net useful output to be maximized. In baseball, it’s three strikes and you’re out. What you mostly care about is not any individual at-bat but the overall batting average. [[Failure]] is irrelevant unless it’s catastrophic.
  • 44:00 Intellectual property – how do you protect it in a world where information is constantly under attack? #[[intellectual property]]
    • [[Tesla]] open sourced their [[patents]] a few years ago. The goal of Tesla is to encourage the use of sustainable energy, so they want to help others that want to make an electric car.
    • The real way you achieve protection is by innovating fast enough. If innovation is high, you won’t need to worry about [[intellectual property]] because competitors will be copying something you did years ago. Innovation per unit of time is what matters. What is your rate of innovation, and is that accelerating or decelerating? [[Big Business]] tends to get less innovative per employee and also sometimes in absolute terms, and it’s likely because of incentives. Incentives must be aligned with innovation. #Ankified
  • 47:30 What are your thoughts on the competition between the [[US]] and [[China]].
    • [[China]] economy is going to be 2-3 time the size of the [[US]] economy, due to their huge population advantage. So, innovation has to close this massive gap in economic output. Economics are the foundation of war.
  • 50:40 How do you create a culture of enthusiasm at [[Tesla]] and [[SpaceX]]?
    • There is a pretty big selection effect, because especially in important engineering roles, they look for people that have demonstrated innovation. As mentioned earlier, the incentives in the company help – they reward innovation and punish lack of innovation.